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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 27) - West Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, will miss out on cocoa earnings this year following recent revelations that the cocoa pod borer had affected the crop since 2003 and the damage was worse than that at Kerevat in East New Britain.

It was also revealed that since then cocoa production had been "none to very little" in Aitape, the main cocoa growing area of the province.

[PIR editor’s note: ] The former West Sepik, currently known as Sandaun Province, is the north-westernmost province of Papua New Guinea. Aitape is a coastal town in Sandaun Province.]

A team of experts from the Coconut and Cocoa Institute (CCI) in East New Britain announced their findings upon returning from a weeklong trip into the isolated Aitape area where evidence of the pest had been found.

Chairman of the East New Britain Cocoa Pod Borer committee and national response unit coordinator Hosea Turbarat said the infestation was not reported until after evidence found in Kerevat that raised national concern.

Mr. Turbarat said officials from the province visited Kerevat for training following the outbreak and went back to check their cocoa. He said they found similar problems and reported to CCI where scientists were sent into the area and confirmed the existence of the pest.

Turbarat said the effect on cocoa pods in parts of Aitape were worse especially at the Poro Government settlement scheme, then the ones at Kerevat. But, he said, with the isolation of the place, the likelihood of the pest affecting other plantations and blocks were little.

Turbarat said leading scientists in the team visited the area and conducted a workshop last week were officials on the ground were trained on methods to counter the spread and eradication of the CPB in their province.

Turbarat said they also demonstrated how to prune the cocoa trees, do rampansan (removal of affected pods) and spraying of insecticides -- methods used in affected blocks and plantations in Kerevat.

The team of experts also helped to organize teams to start the eradication exercise.

September 28, 2006

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