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By John A. Concepcion

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Mar. 10) — The Palau Bureau of Agriculture is eyeing quarantine measures to prevent the entry of a betel nut disease that has devastated betel nut tree populations in Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

Fred Sengebau, the bureau’s plant protection officer, said the recent onslaught of the betel nut fungal disease in Guam has been a cause for alarm in Palau, where the nut is "very important."

Sengebau is now working with Konrad Englberger of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in formulating some quarantine measures against the disease. He said SPC, through Englberger, has made a donation to purchase a small container and disinfectant to be used by quarantine officers at the airport to minimize the possibility of the disease’s entry.

He said the fungus responsible for the diseases can be carried on someone’s shoes, as such, the container with disinfectant would be used for dipping a passenger’s shoes.

Sengebau said they would be interviewing passengers, especially from Guam and CNMI, if they had recently gone to a farm before coming to Palau. If they had, then their shoes would be disinfected.

He said the quarantine procedure would be started as soon as possible.

Bringing in infected betel nuts here could cause tremendous damage to local plants.

The public has been asked to refrain from bringing in betel nuts from Guam and CNMI.

According to reports, the fungus that has infected betel nuts in Guam may be the same disease that wiped out the betel nut trees in CNMI eight years ago. Guam authorities have already earmarked $50,000 to eradicate infected betel nut trees.

Present quarantine regulations require that any betel nut from Guam or from other countries be confiscated at any port of entry in Palau. All betel nuts from foreign countries that are intercepted are burned by the bureau.

March 10, 2004

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