Palestinian prickly pear growers upset by bug outbreak

For the second year in a row, farmers around the West Bank city of Jenin fear they might lose the prickly pear harvest due to a cochineal bug outbreak. Every year, the harvest season of prickly pears begins in early July and continues until September in the Palestinian territories. The fruit is widely popular during the summer season with its sweet taste and nutritional benefits.

On about 1,235 acres of land in the Palestinian territories, growers produce 7,500 tons of prickly pears every year, according to Shady Saleh, director of pest control department in the General Administration of the West Bank Plant Agency.

"About 70 percent of the cactus trees were infected with the cochineal pest, which caused a decline in the production of prickly pears," Saleh said, adding that farmers may have to uproot trees to get rid of the accumulated crisis. He said now the pest has spread to all areas of the West Bank, and that his ministry may resort to uprooting all cactus trees from the West Bank and planting them again if all attempts to limit the spread of the pest fail.


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