Pests devastate cassava

Thailand's cassava output is expected to decline by anywhere between 36% and 50% this year because of severe pest and disease outbreaks in plantations across the country.

The Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) has reduced its cassava output forecast for the 2009-10 crop to only 23 million tonnes, much lower than 29 million in an earlier projection, said Apichart Jongskul, the OAE secretary-general.

The private sector painted a gloomier picture, predicting annual production could fall to as low as 20 million tonnes if no swift action is taken to prevent pest and disease outbreaks.

Latest figures show that a mealybug infestation has spread in 27 provinces covering 600,000 to 700,000 rai of plantation areas out of a total of 7.78 million.

Mr Apichart said the government might need to eradicate plants that are one to four months old months old to eradicate the pests covering around 100,000 rai. As well, he said, authorities may need to set aside additional funds to compensate farmers.

The infestation would definitely affect the tapioca and related industries, particularly paper and ethanol producers that use tapioca as raw materials.

The tapioca industry is estimated to be worth 170 billion baht including 70 billion baht for chips and starch, and 100 billion from related industries that use tapioca as raw materials.

The Tapioca Policy Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankhiri yesterday directed a working panel to work closely with related agencies to map out an action plan to address the problems.

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