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Okinawa waging war on insects infecting Kumejima sweet potatoes

Date Posted: 2010-06-11

In what’s proving to be a challenge to Okinawa officials, efforts are being stepped up to exterminate insects damaging sweet potato crops on Kume Island.

The problem is severe, and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has a complete ban on transporting Okinawa sweet potatoes outside the prefecture. The plant quarantine law forbids any exports. The Ministry is actively engaged in exterminating the insects, and predicts they’ll have a handle on it by next year.

Japanese officials say they’ve made inroads into exterminating the harmful bugs by using natural predatory insects, and expect they’ll succeed in extermination of Coleopteran soon. Okinawa officials have been battling the bug problem on Kume Island since 1994, and say they’re looking forward to a certification by the central government late this summer of having succeeded.

If the numbers are down, the Ministry is expected to declare the insects completely exterminated. With that hope in mind, Kume Island and JA are trying to establish a committee covering the entire sweet potato growing industry to brand the Kume Island sweet potato as a unique Okinawa food product. Okinawa officials concur, saying sweet potato production can be significantly increased if the island is certified bug free.

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