Cocoa pest poses international threat
23 June 2008
The cocoa industry risks financial ruin if a pest currently confined to Latin America continues to cross international borders, warns Dr Julie Flood, Global Director of Commodities at CABI.
Frosty Pod Rot infects actively growing cocoa pods and has rapidly replaced Witches Broom, another highly problematic pest, as the number one constraint on cocoa in any country where both exist.
Increased trade and tourism, particularly southern hemisphere to southern hemisphere, is heightening the risk of this disease wreaking havoc on the industry.
“Globalisation of diseases is one of the biggest threats to cocoa sustainability,” said Dr Flood. “The spread of Frosty Pod Rot poses the biggest risk to the cocoa industry, particularly if it reaches West Africa, the largest cocoa producing area that currently provides 65% of the world’s supply.”
A cocoa pod infected with Frosty Pod Rot
Frosty Pod Rot has been catastrophic to cocoa production in every country to which it has been introduced. Since arriving in Peru in 1989, cocoa production fell by 40 – 50% and some areas experienced complete crop loss.
Similarly, in Costa Rica within five years of the disease first appearing exports decreased by 96%. The disease has already spread into much of Central America including Mexico and threatens production in Brazil and the Caribbean.
“It is the lag phase between a pod being infected and it showing symptoms that can make it potentially very dangerous,” said Dr Flood. “It takes up to three months for symptoms to appear and during this time infected material can be transported around without any awareness of the disease that is lurking within.”
The main cause of long distance dispersal is humans, although spores can also be dispersed up to one kilometre by wind. Spores can also attach themselves to clothes, shoes or any other material that they come in contact with.
The dry, powdery nature of the spores means that they are readily dislodged in a cloud by water, wind or physical disturbance of the pod. The disease can survive for several months, such as over a dry season.
“Distortion of the pod is often the earliest symptom seen and can be easily overlooked so transporting pods around is not a good idea especially into countries which are currently free from the disease,” said Dr Flood.
Dr Julie Flood, Global Director of Commodities, CABI,
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