A generation of butterflies has arisen from a recent infestation of nettle caterpillars on a Koh Kong province palm oil tree plantation, mounting what farmers and agronomists say could become a serious threat to Cambodian agriculture.
With assistance from the agronomy and land improvement department at the Ministry of Agriculture, the Mong Reththy Group, which owns the plantation, has begun spraying insecticide to control the caterpillar, also known as darna trima, infestation, company officials said Monday.
Mong Reththy Group Deputy Director Tann Molivann said the situation became a grave worry once the caterpillars began turning into butterflies last weekend.
“Things got worse when the caterpillars turned into butterflies that swarmed the plantation. We are worried since these butterflies will produce offspring,” increasing the threat they pose, he said.
Koh Kong provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang said he was unaware of any infestation in his province.
Agronomy and land improvement Deputy Director Hean Vanhorn said the development worried him.
“I just got the letter from Mong Reththy asking us for help. We will work out a way to help,” he said, adding that crops are at risk anywhere the butterflies may go.
Hean Vanhorn, who is also senior crop protection expert, said his department is ready to contain the problem, as the government had charged it with tackling the next outbreak.
The Council of Ministers has drafted a sub-decree that would allow agriculture experts to inspect food delivered by air freight and is drafting two more to strengthen food security at border crossings.
Yang Saing Koma, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Agricultural Study and Development, said he was worried by the new infestation, and called on the government to play closer attention to import security.
Last year, almost 500 hectares of newly planted rice paddy were destroyed by a golden snail outbreak in Kampot, Takeo and Svay Rieng provinces, at a high cost to farmers.