The Philippine coconut industry is struggling to contain a fast-spreading insect infestation. So far, it’s affected more than two million trees. That’s only about 1 percent of all coconut trees in the country, but experts are worried the problem could worsen. Barnaby Lo reports.
Two millions coconut trees affected by insect infection in PhilippinesThe Philippine coconut industry is struggling to contain a fast-spreading insect infestation. So far, it's affected more than two million trees. That's only about one percent of all coconut trees in the country, but experts are worried the problem could worsen. Barnaby Lo reports.
It’s been a difficult year for Mario Quiatchon. He used to be able to depend on his one-hectare coconut plantation to make a decent living for himself and for coconut farmers he employs, but not anymore.
Pests, never-before-seen in the Philippines, have been sapping the life out of these trees, turning the leaves brown and leaving them fruitless.
The Philippines is one of the largest coconut exporters in the world. There are about 350 million of these trees all over the country. Right now only a small percentage has been infested, but the fear is that these so-called coconut scale insects are spreading fast and wide.
There are a lot of these insects. According to scientists from the University of the Philippines, there are so many that chemicals and pesticides alone just won’t do. They’re searching for other insects that can potentially feed on those killing the coconut trees.
Farmers are also doing what they can to contain the infestation and to help bring these trees back to life for their own benefit. Coconut is used in everything from food and oil to beauty products.
The government says the problem, if left unresolved, could cause the economy to lose more than $750 million in one year and leave millions jobless.