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Southern Thailand’s Rubber Plantations Hit by Fungal Disease

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A key rubber tree-growing area in Thailand has been hit by an outbreak of a fungal disease called Pestalotiopsis. The fungal disease could halve the area’s output, the country’s rubber authority said on Monday.

Thailand is the world’s top producer and exporter of the natural rubber, accounting for up to 40% of global rubber supply.

Pestalotiopsis, has spread into Thailand after hitting rubber plantations in neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia. The three countries account for around 70% of the world’s natural rubber production.

The Rubber Authority of Thailand said the disease, causes leaves to turn yellow and spotted as it spreads. It was recently found in three districts in Narathiwat, a key rubber growing province in southern Thailand.

Fungal Disease Threatens Output

Krissada Sangsing, director of the agency’s rubber research institute, said the disease threatens to cut output in the affected areas by up to 50%. The agency also told Reuters that damage was estimated to be around 100,000 rai (16,000 hectares) as of Sunday.

“We are committed to preventing this disease and containing it from spreading further,” Krissada said.

Older rubber trees are also more vulnerable to the fungal disease. It causes the trees to eventually lose 90% of their leaves and affects their ability to produce latex, he told Reuters.

Rubber farmers in the south were “very worried” about losing output amid falling rubber prices, said Uthai Sonlucksub, president of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand.

“It spreads so fast. The trees are all bare and cannot be tapped at all,” Uthai told Reuters.

“Farmers in the affected districts are losing their income.”

The disease currently affects around 382,000 hectares of rubber plantations in Indonesia. Especially parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, according to the International Rubber Consortium (IRCo).

Indonesia also revised its natural rubber production this year due to the outbreak, expecting output to drop by 15%.

News Source: Reuters