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Killer disease threatens oil palm industry

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


FIGHT THE THREAT: Abdul Hamed Sepawi (second right) warns that Ganoderma could wipe out the oil palm industry in Sarawak. Also present at the press conference were (from left) Chua, Law, Paul and Philip.

MIRI: Sarawak’s oil palm industry could be wiped out by Ganoderma root disease within three to five years if this cancer-like threat is not contained quickly.

Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners’ Association (Soppoa) said a total of 59,000 hectares in various parts of the state had already been infected.

Its chairman Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi cautioned that the disease was not confined to a single plantation, but prevailed throughout the state.

“What is important is early prevention to stop this disease from spreading to such an extent that the industry becomes paralysed.

“This parasitic fungus is like cancer. It kills palm trees,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Ganoderma was first detected in the peninsula, and it had reportedly affected 400,000 hectares of oil palm there.

Hamed warned that failure to nail this problem quickly could mean huge losses to plantation owners and jeopardise the state’s economy.

Ganoderma causes oil palms to rot at the base (BSR), and this is the major threat affecting half of all plantations in the country without the owners realising the extent of the infection.

While fungi poison injections had been applied to diseased palms and tissue removal used in field preparations for replanting, plantation owners believed these sanitation methods might not be enough.

They believe that burning is the most effective antidote.

Hamed said Soppoa wanted the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) to review the burning ban on plantations as this could help check the spread of this plague and save the industry.

“Soppoa and MPOA Sarawak will continue to work closely to find ways to overcome this BSR threat and other emerging diseases.”

Also present at the press conference were Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad chief executive officer Paul Wong,
Soppoa secretariat personnel Philip Ho, Woodman Plantations owner Dato Sri Law Kiu Kiong and Chua Kian Hong from MPOA Sarawak.

Earlier, Hamed Sepawi opened a two-day seminar on Ganoderma and new diseases affecting oil palms.

Hamed told the 160 participants that the primary aim of the seminar was to create greater awareness among owners of oil palm plantations about the destructive power of these diseases.

Taken from The Borneo Post