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Okinawa’s lettuce crop half destroyed by birds

Date Posted: 2007-03-08

Farmers across Okinawa are angry that birds have eaten away more than half their lettuce crops.

The Taiwan Shirogashira, also known as the P.S. Formosae, is responsible for nearly 60% of this year’s crop being destroyed. Farmers say the wily birds have evaded traps and hit the fields hard, particularly in Itoman City. Itoman is the largest lettuce producing area of the island.

The P.S. Formosae fly into the croplands when the farmers are absent, pecking holes in the lettuce heads. Farmers say the birds eat all the way into the lettuce core, ruining it for market.

The problems began when the birds first arrived in Okinawa in the 1980’s. An extermination project was instituted to eradicate the P.S. Formosae, but was abandoned three years ago because of budget constraints.

Farmer Arakaka, who’s been cultivating lettuce in Itoman’s Nashiro area for 15 years, says “there are some damages every year, but it’s particularly terrible this year.” Lettuce planted in December has been destroyed completely. He says lettuce planted since December has been badly damaged, but “it’s only half of the usual.”

A government official insists there are no more birds than in previous years, but says it appears they are increasing their presence in fields and places where there are foods.

Further compounding farmers’ problems is a downturn in prices for lettuce. A JA Okinawa spokesman says the mild winter has led to overproduction, which led to a decline in market prices. “Farmers will be in the red, even though they’re doing their best,” said the official.

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