The 200 hectares of Undine Coconut Plantation at north Efate is at risk as the Department of Bio-security (DoB) confirmed that the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) has spread into the area recently.

This is a serious problem because UNELCO depends on coconut oil from that plantation as bio-fuel to supply electricity to residents in Port Vila and from around rural Efate. Half of the plantation have just been replanted. 

Energie-Vanuatu Services, the company that manages the Undine Bay Coconut Plantation and running of the Renewable Energy Generation Plant has stepped in to help the DoB stop the new threat from destroying the coconut plantation.

Energie-Vanuatu Services provided pipes and buckets that will be used to trap the beetles. These materials are worth Vt100,000.

Biosecurity Officer, Leisongi Manses, said that they have run short of trapping materials during the first destruction of breeding sites.

Assistant General Manager (GM) of Energie-Vanuatu Services, Remy Marcelin, said that they are worried that the beetle could cause Vanuatu's coconut industry to suffer, including the business which is promoting green energy.

If the renewable electrification business is affected, then the company would turn to fossil fuel which is harmful to the environment, he stressed.

Assistant GM Marcelin said: "We ( Energie-Vanuatu Services) have a lot of farmers on other islands such as Malekula, Ambrym and Epi who are supplying us with coconut. We usually get 50 tonnes of copra per week.

"The farmers will lose their income if the beetle continues to spread.

"It will be a nightmare for those who are relying on copra as their only source of income.

"We have put so much effort to replant coconut trees in the plantation.

"We want to help the government prevent the spread of the beetle. The gates of the farm are now open to Bio-Security officers for inspection."

Apart from Undine Bay, Principal Biosecurity Officer, Touasi Tiwok, revealed  that suspected Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles have also been found at Lelepa and Eton but samples have to be sent abroad for confirmation. 

She re-emphasized that authorities need to be one-step ahead of the fast-spreading beetle to stop it from spreading or it will be too later .

"Right now we are destroying breeding sites at the affected areas," she said.

"We want to assure that we have a recovery plan in place. We will be supplying coconut seedlings for communities to replant in the areas that we have cleared.

"Our staff have been working 24-hours shift per week on the issue and the volunteers, communities and organisations as Energie-Vanuatu Services have taken up responsibility since the incursion of CRB.

"The Pacific Community (SPC) is also assisting the eradication efforts. We will commence mass clean-up now that the Council of Ministers (COM) has approved funds for eradication," she said.

The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Bio-Security, Forestry and Fisheries (MALBFF), Moses Amos, confirmed the amount approved by COM to be Vt55.5 million.

He explained that the funds will go towards two phases of the Biosecurity Emergency Response Program. 

Around Vt35.5 million for the first phase will be  sourced from the National Disaster Emergency Fund. It will cover the costs of increasing the task-force to 100 people in response to the seriousness of this CRB outbreak.

Vt20 million for the second phase which involve biological control will come from EDF 11.

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