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Philippines says pests damaged 400,000 coconut trees last week, exports affected

Published on Jun 30, 2014 5:33 PM

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines said an insect infestation had damaged another 400,000 coconut trees over the past week and could spread to the key growing areas by the end of this year, severely crippling the country's most valuable agricultural export.

The fast-spreading infestation at the world's top coconut oil exporter at a time when global demand is seen outstripping production from Asia, home to 85 percent of output, could further boost prices of the commodity in the world market.

"The rate of infestation is very high," Secretary Francis Pangilinan, who is in charge of the country's food security, said on Monday while announcing a 24 percent jump in the number of trees affected in the past week to 2.1 million.

"If we don't intervene, by the end of the year, Regions 5 and 9 would be affected too," he said, referring to two key growing areas that account for about a fifth of the national output.

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