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[The Star, 24 May 2004]

THE Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) will set up a dedicated working group to address the issue of Ganoderma or basal stem rot disease, which is fast becoming a major threat to oil palm cultivation and production in Malaysia. Deputy director-general 1, Dr Mohd Basri Wahid, said MPOB would employ ateam of scientists and researchers to help formulate strategies and find a solution to cure and possibly eradicate this disease, which had plagued the local oil palm plantations over the past four decades. nThe forum, held in Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with MPOB's International Conference on Pests and Diseases of Importance to the Oil Palm Industry,concluded yesterday. Recent statistics show that over 50% of oil palm plantations in peninsular Malaysia were affected by Ganoderma. Basri said the disease could cause death of up to 80% of affected oil palm trees when they were only halfway through their 25- to 30-year lifespan. He added that oil palm plantations normally suffered losses of between 25%and 45% reduction in fresh fruit bunches yield.