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Caterpillar invasion threatening world's largest cocoa producer, Ivory Coast

Caterpillar invasion threatening world's largest cocoa producer, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Within weeks, an estimated 20,000 hectares of cocoa plantation has been destroyed by a caterpillar invasion that has hit the world’s largest producer of the bean, Ivory Coast. The destruction took place in villages in the country’s southeast.

“My four hectares of cocoa left, eaten by caterpillars!” laments Maxime Brou, a farmer in Ahondo, a village in central Ivory Coast, where a voracious caterpillar destroyed several thousands of hectares.

The 48-year farmer added; “One Monday, I went into my field, everything was normal. Four days after my visit, there was nothing. It was like a bad dream.”

One Monday, I went into my field, everything was normal. Four days after my visit, there was nothing. It was like a bad dream.

Aside being the world’s leading cocoa producer and exporter, Ivory Coast, recently added yet another exporting feat to its growing export sector after overtaking India to become the world’s biggest exporter of cashew nuts.

The caterpillar, ‘‘Achaea catocaloides guenee,’ its scientific name, is the “new threat to cocoa production,” according to researchers from the National Agricultural Research Centre (CNRA) of Ivory Coast.

Nanga Coulibaly, adviser to the coffee-cocoa Council, the sector regulator, has stated that if left unchecked, the pests would multiply and wreak more havoc.

“Everything started from the village of Léléblé”, Kra Kouame, departmental director of agriculture Taabo told AFP. According to him, some 6,000 hectares of cocoa are affected, a month after the first case.

Caterpillars spread very quickly, they eat leaves, flowers and cherelles (bud) of cocoa day and night while defecating, producing an eerie sound that can last days, reflecting the inexorable march of these caterpillars.