Plant Disease Threatens Food Supplies In PNG Province

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Long Island in Madang already under prolonged drought

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 31, 2013) – The Governor of Madang Province in Papua New Guinea says a lethal plant disease could be threatening the food supplies on Long Island.

The remote island is already experiencing a drought that has affected about 5,000 people who have been running desperately low on food and drinking water, leading to several deaths.

Governor Jim Kas believes the Bogia coconut syndrome is killing the island's major food supplies.

He told Pacific Beat that his government will provide financial assistance to the area and hopes the national government will also help.

"My government has made a decision to supporting the islanders with 300,000 kina [US$116,641] and we are expecting some assistance some financial assistance from the National Emergency and Disaster Office in Port Moresby," Mr Kas said.

Mr Kas says the Bogia coconut syndrome is affecting tree crops such as coconut, paw paw trees and bananas.

"I also have evidence on my camera that the syndrome... also affecting watermelon leaves, taro leaves, yam and I think it's a major problem," he said.

The province has also been experiencing more than six months of drought, which is exacerbating the problem.

"I also flew across the lake that is there. I hope in due time, we will address the issue by maybe piping water from the freshwater lake to all the villages on the island," Mr Kas said.

To help the province, Mr Kas says his province will also be reintroducing airline charters to provide government services to the people.

While the provincial government is treating the situation as "a special case", he says he is not declaring an emergency yet.

Mr Kas has also made an appeal to scientists and researchers around the world, inviting them to Madang province to find the source of the issue.

"We need specialists to come and find out what particular pests is affecting because our scientists here... have tried all their best and they have not even established what kind of pest is affecting coconut trees, paw paw trees, bananas and it's now getting down to the root crops," he said.

"If the source of the disease... is not detected, then I feel that it will be a big problem on Long island."

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