Kiribati takes precautions on the fast-spreading Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Guam biotype that has infested its neighbouring Pacific Island countries and states

Kiribati biosecurity officials took vital precautionary steps to prevent the invasion of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Guam biotype (CRB-G) in the country through a virtual training on the fast-spreading pest on 14 December.

While the CRB-G strain has not yet been found in the atoll nation, the biosecurity officials were reminded to be vigilant and take precautions on the fast-spreading invasive species that has infested neighbouring Pacific Island countries and states, including Hawaii, Guam, Palau, PNG, the Solomon Islands, Northern Marianas and New Caledonia, in the past 10 years.

“CRB-G has the capability to inflict severe damage to palms and poses a threat to food security in the region if not effectively monitored,” said Pacific Community’s (SPC) Land Resources Division (LRD) Director Karen Mapusua during the virtual training.

Mapusua added that with Kiribati’s coconut industry accounting for approximately 40 per cent of the country’s national export earnings, it was imperative that the island protect the industry at all costs.

“While we concentrate the efforts to manage the CRB in partner countries where it is present, we also recognize the importance of assisting SPC member countries without the pest by providing awareness and monitoring trainings upon request,” she said.       

The virtual training was coordinated by the New Zealand funded Pacific Awareness and Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (PARC) project, implemented by SPC and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Programme (PHAMA) Plus.

PHAMA Plus, also funded by Australia and New Zealand, is providing technical support to Kiribati under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) for an emergency response to pest and disease outbreaks.

“The recent pest and disease incursions in the region have highlighted the need for the Pacific islands to be prepared to respond and mobilise the appropriate resources in a timely manner to contain, manage, control, or eradicate, if possible, these threats and CRB is no exception,” PHAMA Plus Project Manager for PACER Plus Sangita Kumar said.

“Following this training by PARC, PHAMA Plus will work with the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development to extend necessary support beyond the Kiribati capital, Tarawa to the outer islands in 2022. And as we readjust and manage the associated challenges of COVID-19, this support to Kiribati will further enhance their economic resilience through a strengthened coconut industry.”

The Director Agriculture and Livestock for Kiribati, Kinaai Kairo acknowledged SPC and PHAMA Plus for accommodating their request for the CRB training.

“We are quite concerned with the CRB issue as copra is our only cash crop. The training gave us critical information on CRB incursions, how to diagnose CRB presence on our coconuts and how to manage it, which was very helpful.”

New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Program Manager Tanya Robinson said that while the PARC project catered specifically to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea where the CRB-G strain is rife, as well as Vanuatu, which is currently experiencing a  new CRB-S incursion, it was encouraging to see a different perspective from Kiribati as they look to keep their island free of the coconut pest.

The PARC project team will hold a similar training for the Cook Islands (which have yet to discover the coconut pest in its borders), on Thursday this week.

This story was originally posted at SPC on 17 December 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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