A new information portal called Cocopest has been launched at the 58th International Coconut Community (ICC) Session & Ministerial Meeting to help in the fight against pests and diseases of coconut – a crop that in 2020 was valued at USD $65 billion.

The resource, which has been developed by CABI and financially supported by the ICC, was revealed by Dr Jelfina Alouw, Executive Director of the ICC at the meeting which was held virtually and co-organised by Tonga’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests.

Cocopest brings together information from journals, books and abstracts in one central place for the first time. It currently features 20 datasheets with details on 13 insects, two bacteria, two fungi, one virus and two mites that can impact upon coconut production.

These include the coconut rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) and the Guam Haplotype coconut rhinoceros beetle, African rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes boas), Bogia Coconut Syndrome (BSC), Phytoplasma causing Lethal Yellowing Disease (LYD) and Phytophthora palmivora.

Coconut is grown on about 12.25 million hectares in more than 90 countries and is consumed by people in more than 110 countries worldwide. The 20-member countries of the ICC occupy 87% of the global total area and produce around 86% of the world’s coconut supply.

The ICC member countries include eight Asian countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Timor Leste, nine Pacific countries: Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, one Caribbean country: Jamaica, one African country: Kenya and one country in South America: Guyana.

However, the coconut – scientifically and practically referred to as the ‘tree of life’ – faces numerous challenges which include low productivity due to the senility of the palms, pests and diseases, land conversion, low quality of planting materials and low levels of maintenance.

Not only does Cocopest aim to provide information and good quality resources on coconut pests and diseases but it also serves to provide advice and recommendations for ICC members.

This includes images, taxonomic data, information on the distribution of the pest and diseases as well as symptoms, prevention and control, detection and inspection. There is also an ‘expert’ section which can connect people with experts from regional diagnostic networks.

Dr Feng Zhang, CABI’s Regional Director, East & South East Asia, presented at the meeting on strengthening CABI’s partnership with the ICC for the sustainable development of the coconut sector.

CABI and ICC have a strong collaboration with goes back to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 and a Letter of Agreement for Technical Cooperation on development of the Cocopest portal in 2021. The broad aims of the partnership are to facilitate scientific exchange, conduct research in areas of mutual interest and strengthen capacity development and publication of research.

Dr Alouw said, “Coconut is an important economic crop for ICC member countries – many of whom have embarked on massive replanting programmes to meet the current increasing demand for coconut and its by-products.

“With this, however, comes the increasing risk posed by pests and diseases. While there is a plethora of information available, Cocopest serves to be an easily accessible portal to help coconut producers maximise their yields and profitability of this key cash crop.”

During the meeting, Dr Zhang proposed how further collaboration between CABI and the ICC could include utilising the CABI-led global Plantwise framework which sees plant doctors at plant clinics help farmers diagnose and treat their plant health problems.

CABI could also share its expertise in helping with the development of a regional biosecurity plan and programmes which empower women and youth – thereby reducing inequalities and gender mainstreaming to boost marginalised communities’ participation in the coconut industry.

Additional information

Main image: The global coconut market is valued at USD $65 billion in 2020 but the crop is at risk from pests and diseases highlighted by the CABI-derived Cocopest information portal (Credit: ICC).

Other relevant story

See also the news story ‘CABI signs MoU with Asian and Pacific Coconut Community.’