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Deadly Whitefly Pest to Hit Indian Oil Palm Production This Year

  • Farmers likely to suffer on production losses
    Prices may go up thanks to lower supplies

    The Indian feather palm farmers are likely to be suffered by low yields this year as a results of a deadly invasive pest called Rugose Spiralling Whitefly (RSW) which is rapidly infecting the feather palm plantations across the main crop areas in Southern States –the region accounts for about 70% of the entire production within the country. The pest, which was noticed above the permissible Economic intensity (ETL) in Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, may be a major explanation for concern for the Ministry of Agriculture as this dangerous species can damage plants and significantly reduce yield. Scientifically called as Aleurodicus rugioperculatus Martin (RSW), the disruptive pest has already infected several thousands of acres of feather palm plantations.

    Primarily found in Coconut plantations, the insect which doesn’t have a natural enemy to supress its growth, is multiplying its population while invading other crops creating a menace in agriculture economy of the country.

    A joint survey conducted by ICAR - Indian institute of feather palm Research (IIOPR), DAC&FW, state agriculture departments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and CIPMC-Vijayawada found that RSW is additionally visible on secondary host plants like feather palm , Banana, Custard Apple and Guava, And it had been even spreading to non-host plants also .

    According to the survey, it's found that the harmful pest, RSW, is spreading quickly from Kadiam mandal of Andhra Pradesh to surrounding mandals – creating an alarming situation to grease Palm plantations during this region. East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts were among the foremost affected areas, about 10,226 ha of coconut and 11,744 ha of feather palm plantations were damaged thanks to this insect. A lions share of this damage has taken place within the Tadepalligudam, Chagallu, Nidadavole and deverapalli mandals of West Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh .

    India is that the world’s biggest edible oil importer and these imports account for about two thirds of total consumption. India highly depends on Malaysia and Indonesia for vegetable oil imports because it doesn’t have enough cultivation of feather palm within the country.

    According to the Institute of feather palm Research, India has identified 19.33 lakh ha for cultivation of feather palm across 18 states, however, it's currently cultivating on over 3.31 lakh ha in 13 states of the country. With a few half the entire country’s area under cultivation, Andhra Pradesh is that the largest feather palm producer in India followed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Odisha and Telangana. consistent with NABARD, Coconut is grown on 1.94 million ha in 19 states and three Union territories producing 15,730 million nuts per annum .

    The invasive and harmful pest can severely damage plantations wherever it takes host. The visible characteristics of RSW include sap sucking which results in stress on Palm thanks to emergence of an important presence of wax and excreta that affects palm hygiene. This sooty waxy mould reduces photosynthetic activity and successively reduces the active leaf area. FFB development is hampered thanks to this infestation and it's observed that up to 30% yield reduction are often witnessed in severely affected feather palm gardens.

    Due to this reason, the Indian farmers are currently worried over the potential production loss to the tune of 30% that would severely affect their earnings this year. India produces a mean 3 lakh plenty of feather palm once a year which is probably going to be suffering from this insect. Hence, the farmers are demanding the govt to require immediate action to contain further spreading of RSW in across the affected areas.

    The industry experts feel that the top prices of vegetable oil could also go up proportionately if the assembly is hit by the insect. “Even the international scenario isn't optimistic because the vegetable oil imports from Malaysia have come down significantly thanks to its Prime Minister Mr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on Kashmir issue”, an analyst who didn’t wish to be identified said.

    India during 2018-19 imported about 9.6 million plenty of edible oils, both crude and refined, consistent with report vegetable oil exports from Malaysia also fell by over 10% thanks to the explanations mentioned above.

    Keeping in sight of the severity of pest attack, the union Agriculture Ministry had advised major Coconut and feather palm growing states to extensively monitor and assess population of RSW through Rapid Roving Survey. Hence, the ministry sought a robust linkage among state Department of Agriculture , state agriculture university, ICAR Institutes and farmers towards implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) at village level.

    Since the invasive pest, RSW, is rapidly spreading to other crops like Coconut and other major crops, the industry experts also are demanding a rapid action by the govt of India and by the respective State Governments to curb the menace. Failed in doing so, the spiralling effect could cripple the main commercial crops within the country and influence the commodity prices which can cause a serious agrarian crisis, the experts warned the govt .

    Suggesting the measures to regulate the menace, Mr Chiranjiv choudary, Commissioner of Horticulture, Andhra Pradesh said, “This may be a serious issue and that we need an integrated approach to regulate the pest. thanks to rising temperatures, it's the proper time to eradicate RSW completely within the state because the climate favours us now. we should always restrict the pest to the prevailing areas and will not allow it to spread to the opposite areas at any cost. to form this happen, we must follow the effective controlling measures during a coordinated approach by joining hands with the scientific community, departmental officers and farmers and work as team to place an end to the menace”.

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