The expert consultation was held in Bangkok from 26 to 27 October 2004 under the auspices of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. It was attended by 17 representatives from 11 countries, namely Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. An international consultant from Fiji joined FAO technical officers to facilitate the expert consultation.
The meeting was declared opened by He Changchui, Assistant Director-General (ADG) and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. In his address, he pointed out that the main objective of the consultation was to exchange experiences and lessons learned among member countries of the Asia-Pacific Plant Protection Commission (APPPC) that are facing or may face coconut beetle outbreaks. It is important for countries affected or at risk of incursion to work together and FAO stands ready to facilitate the cooperation and provide technical assistance to build capacity to tackle this invasive insect.
In addressing the outbreaks, it is often unsustainable to rely on chemical insecticides. One successful approach in the past was to introduce effective biological control agents that attacked only the coconut beetle. This ecologically sound approach does little harm to the environment and helps restore the balance that contributes to sustaining a sound coconut ecosystem. The biological control approach is particularly important as FAO has designated 2004 as the Year of Biodiversity for Food Security. In this aspect, FAO has put forth specific guidelines to ensure successful and specific action of introduced species to control invader pests.
The ADG expressed confidence that the discussion would galvanize the member countries to work together proactively within a regional programme to prepare for the possible invasion of other pests and on other crops too. FAO has been successful in developing the IPM Farmer Field School (FFS) approach to help farmers manage their agro-ecosystem. This outbreak presents a unique opportunity for the member countries to recommit their agricultural development towards farmer education to sustain rural development and reduce poverty.