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Addressing the Red Palm Weevil Crisis: Challenges and Strategies in Terengganu, Malaysia

Written by Zahtamal

Photo: Red Palm Weevils have infested coconut trees in Terengganu, Malaysia

Since 2007 the Red Palm Weevil (RPW) has been causing serious damage to coconut trees in the region of Terengganu in Malaysia and the pest is now posing a significant threat to the region's coconut industry.

In 2007, The Department of Agriculture in Malaysia quickly identified the RPW infestation which was then found in 58 localities across seven districts in Malaysia. However, it wasn't until a comprehensive survey conducted in 2011 that the full extent of the problem was revealed - with over 550,000 coconut trees found to be affected.

RPW damage causes coconut palms to die and infestations can spread quickly due to the pest being highly mobile with some RPW able to fly distances of up to 50km. RPW damage can have severe economic consequences because coconut farming is crucial to Terengganu's economy. 

Dr. Wahizatul Afzan Azmi a researcher from the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, has been researching the RPW since damage was reported. The current method of managing the RPW in Malaysia is largely based on pheromone mass trapping, she explains, but this is not effective enough to reduce the infestation of the RPW as the weevil population keeps increasing drastically.

"Urgent action using a combination of management approaches and research is needed to tackle the problem"  Dr Wahizatul Afzan Azmi, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu

The Department of Agriculture in Malaysia has implemented various strategies to combat the infestation of the Red Palm Weevil (RPW). One such strategy involves providing assistance to farmers in cutting down infected trees. Chemical pesticides are also injected into the trees as a preventive measure. However, it is important to note that the chemical pesticide used is highly toxic and can only be used with permission from the authorities. "Once the farmers apply the chemical pesticides, they cannot harvest and consume the coconut for at least three months ", said Rul Hajar, Terengganu  Officer, Department of Agriculture.

 Photo: The Department of Agriculture of Terengganu helps farmers to cut down the infected trees

Despite the challenges, many farmers are taking proactive steps. In the Besut district, an entrepreneur named Ashri has adopted an Integrated Pest  Management (IPM) method to safeguard his crops. He has been using small amounts of salt to prevent attacks from the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, another coconut pest that causes entry points (wounds) for the the RPW to enter. From his personal experience, it works. However, he acknowledges that this method has yet to be scientifically proven. Ashri also uses pheromone trapping and applies wood vinegar as an insect repellent. One of his most important activities is to ensure that he keeps his farm clean and removes all old or decaying debris from around the trees.

Ashri has been practising IPM since he began planting coconut palms because  his goal is to produce a drink called Neera, obtained from coconut flowers. He can't use chemical pesticides, therefore, because they would contaminate the  Neera, making it unsellable. 

Practical measures are necessary to combat the RPW infestation in Terengganu and this will involve a range of strategies and stakeholders, supported by the Government to address the problem. New methods are also being explored. For example, Dr Wahizatul Afzan Azmi and her reserach team are evaluating the effectiveness of fungi and other organic compounds. Additionally, international cooperation is crucial due to the potential of the serious pest to spread further across Southeast Asia and beyond.

You can view a presentation by Dr Wahizatul Afzan Azmi at our Palm Pests and Diseases page at


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