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October 11, 2000
For Immediate Release

First Phase of Banana Bunchy Top Eradication Completed in Kona…Three-Month Waiting Period Begins

North Kona - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has determined that all known banana plants and regrowths in the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) Eradication Zone in the Kona area have been destroyed. More than 175,000 banana plants were destroyed since "Project Eradication" began in Kona in early 1999, with the last known plant destroyed yesterday afternoon.

As of today, HDOA has declared a three-month waiting period to ensure that all the affected banana aphids, the insect that transmits the disease, have died. The three-month period was established according to the life cycle of the banana aphid. After this waiting period, HDOA will announce a date when Kona growers and homeowners may begin to grow bananas again.

"We want to thank the Kona residents for their cooperation and ask for their continued patience as we enter this next phase of the eradication process," said James J. Nakatani, Chairperson of the Department of Agriculture. "We’ve come this far, and the waiting period is just as crucial to the success of the program as was the destruction of all banana plants."

"Project Eradication" called for the destruction of all banana plants within an egg-shaped eradication zone which extended from Palani Junction (north) to the junction where Kuakini Highway, Walua Road and King Kamehameha III Road intersect (south) and from the treeline (mauka) to the coast (makai), excluding portions of Kailua-Kona and Kahaluu.

Although the waiting period has begun, the public is still encouraged to report any live banana plants in the eradication zone to HDOA's Kona office at 323-7594 or the Hilo office at 974-4140.

A quarantine prohibiting the movement of banana plants and banana plant parts continues in effect on Oahu, Kauai, and in the North and South Kona districts. (Movement of banana fruit is allowed). Violations of the quarantine may result in fines up to $10,000 per incident.

BBTV is a serious viral disease of banana plants and is a major threat to the Big Island's $4 million banana industry. Infected banana plants produce small, deformed fruits; and in advanced stages, banana plants do not produce any fruit. Banana plants may also carry the virus without showing obvious signs of infection. There are no chemicals that can prevent or cure BBTV and the only sure method of controlling its spread is to destroy all the plants in the affected area.

For more information on BBTV in Hawaii, call the HDOA Plant Pest Control Branch on Oahu at 973-9522.