Officials say wasps used to rid the plague have still to arrive
An infestation of mealybugs that has already devastated much of Thailand’s cassava crop is affecting at least 100 hectares of cassava farmland in Banteay Meanchey province, officials said yesterday.
Preap Visato, acting director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s crop protection department, said the insects–which are covered in a white powdery wax resembling meal–had come over from Thailand and were currently present inside three districts in the province.
Unlike Thailand, Cambodia has so far not deployed an army of tiny wasps-which kill the mealybugs by laying eggs inside them–to fight the infestation.
“We have recently permitted an organization to import wasps for testing,” said Mr Visato. “So far there is no activity.”
Mr Visato warned that farmers should avoid transporting affected cassava crops in order to prevent any further contamination.
Hean Vanhorn, deputy general-director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s general department of agriculture, said that the original infestation of mealybugs had entered Cambodia in May and threatened the wages of many farmers and exporters.
However, the arrival of the rainy season has helped kill off some of the insects, he said.
The use of wasps has already been effective in parts of Africa, where mealybugs first arrived in the 1970s and caused food shortages in around 30 countries, Mr Vanhorn added.
Early signs of the infestation have also reportedly been identified in Laos and Burma.
Mak Mal, a cassava farmer in Thma Puok district, an area affected by the infestation, said his four hectares of cassava crop had been threatened by the mealybugs.
“Cassava plants when infested by the mealybugs do not bear the proper root,” he said, adding that he was currently using insecticides.