MP calls for Government action to save palm trees

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

An Algarve MP has called on the government to do more to help eradicate the red palm weevil, which is killing palm trees across the country.

Mendes Bota has sent a letter to the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture suggesting a plan that he says will help avoid “the total decimation of palm trees in Portugal”.

The red palm weevil, rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is an insect which, over the past three years, has destroyed an increasing number of trees.

The insect can cause very serious irreversible damage on various species of palms such as the Canary Islands Date Palm, the Date Palm and the California Fan Palm.

The spread of the red palm weevil plague began in the Middle East during the 1980s and 1990s and reached Spain in 1993 before spreading to Portugal , and the Algarve in particular.

Mendes Bota says the Government has made mistakes and shown a lack of initiative in dealing with this situation.

In his letter he said: “I am very concerned about the brutal decimation of palm trees in Portugal. The country is the victim of an imported pest that has found a country for its proliferation. It is happening before everyone’s eyes and the authorities are showing a mixture of helplessness, ignorance and carelessness. What remains is the sadness of the death of magnificent specimens of palms, both in public and private areas.”

Mendes Bota said that as soon as proliferation of the red palm weevil started in Europe, the Government “should have introduced tighter controls on the importation of palm trees”.

“When the first sick palm tree appeared, the authorities had the obligation to do something to control the situation and kill the plague at birth. Our country is now a giant cemetery of dead palm trees from north to south, focusing particularly on the Algarve.”

He called on the Government to prepare a plan to solve the problem, including preventative action through the incineration and removal of dead and infected trees.

“We need a plan that guarantees pest control on imported trees accompanied by a widespread public awareness campaign about this disaster. It is not easy to control the spread of this plague. The insect develops inside the plant thus is protected from insecticides,” he said.

Mendes Bota said that the immediate solution is the removal of the sick palm trees.

“At the first signs of infestation and to prevent proliferation, infected palm trees must be incinerated to destroy the insects and the larvae.”

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