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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 27, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The banana, one of the main staple foods of Papua New Guinea's New Britain Islands, is threatened by an outbreak of fruit flies -- a pest that can destroy the entire banana crop if it is not controlled immediately.

Researchers at the National Agricultural Research Institute at Kerevat said the fruit fly infestation was discovered first in East New Britain.

It is believed the pest was brought into East New Britain by boat from Lae during the peak of either the 1994 twin volcanic eruptions or the El Niño drought. At that time 40 to 60 fruit flies were found in a shipment.

The pest then multiplied and spread throughout the province, affecting most of the major Gazelle Peninsula areas.

Some of the places where the fruit pest has been found are Kerevat, Warangoi, all of Toma, Kokopo, Bitapaka, the south coast villages, Sikut, Gelagela and settlement blocks from Vunapalading to Lassul Bay.

Areas around the North Coast, including the Kerevat and Tavilo lowlands, also have been infested.

Even the Duke of York Islands and some parts of Pomio district are reported to have been affected.

It is feared that the insect might also have reached parts of New Ireland, especially along the west coast of the Namatanai district.

Senior government entomologist with the institute, Dr. Adrian Schuhbeck, said fruit flies are tiny insects, smaller than ordinary houseflies, which feed mainly on bananas.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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