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Illegal” beetle destroys RM6m worth of local plantation
BY FAZLEENA - 8 OCTOBER 2015 @ 11:08 PM PUTRAJAYA : A total of 294 hectares of coconut plantation have been destroyed in Terengganu and Kelantan with losses amounting to RM6 million incurred caused by the Red Palm Weevil (RPW) beetle. The RPW beetle according to Agriculture Department director-general Datuk Ahmad Zakaria Mohamed Sidek began emerging in the country after illegal date palm trees have been planted for landscape purposes since 2009 particularly in Perlis, Terengganu, Kelantan, Penang, Kedah, Malacca and Negri Sembilan. Date palm trees are the main host for RPWs and promote the rapid breeding of the insect. He said date palm trees are not suitable for the wet Malaysian climate especially for producing dates as it is more suited for the desert with its dry and hot weather. “Planting these illegal date palm trees have led to the breeding of the RPW, and the beetles pose a threat if it continues to breed in the country. “We are afraid if the RPW population increases, they will be moving on to our palm oil plantation for food and destroying them, as the (palm oil) trees are from the same palmae family similar to the date palm trees. “We need to contain the situation before it spreads to other state especially in the south of Peninsula,” he said, adding the RPW eats the core and kills the tree within like cancer. When asked how the date palm trees were brought into the country illegally, Zakaria said the trees were mostly probably smuggled via road crossing the northern borders into the country. He added the department has never issued a permit for the date palm trees and no one is allowed to plant them in the country under Plant Quarantine Regulations 1981. Locally, the RPW has been gazette as a Harmful Insects on July 19, 2011. Those found violating the regulations could be fined RM1,000 or sentenced to one year prison or both under Section 14 (1) (e). The department is urging those with the date palm trees and RPW to notify their nearest offices to allow the process of destroying the insects and trees immediately, Zakaria said. “Our techniques using chemical poison, pheromone traps and culture control have helped in reducing the number of the insect’s attacks. “We are monitoring the coconut plantation in Terengannu, Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Johor to contain and eliminate the problem. “Date palm trees importers are urged to destroy them as soon as possible,” he said, adding they are looking at the matter seriously.