The deadly cocoa fungus "Witch's Broom," which threatens to spread to Brazil's entire cocoa region, is not expected to cause any major damage to this year's cocoa crop but will likely affect up to 40 percent of the 1992-93 (May-April) crop if a cure is not found, said a top researcher.
Commenting on fears expressed by cocoa traders and growers that the entire cocoa-producing region, comprising the states of Bahia and Epirito Santo, could soon be touched by the disease, Dr. Ricardo Sgrillo said it was possible.Mr. Sgrillo, director of the government-run Itabuna Cocoa Research Center in southern Bahia, said, "We have mapped out a worst-case scenario which indicates that if growers do not cooperate in identifying and treating Witch's Broom, by 1995 the whole region will be touched by the disease."
The research center is funding and overseeing a project to educate growers and make them aware of the dangers of Witch's Broom, he said.
Salvador-based traders have said they fear the fungus will spread to the entire region in one to three years.
"Since there is very little money available to combat the disease, all we can do is pray for a dry winter," said one. Witch's Broom spreads more easily in damp weather, he explained.
There is no cure for witch's broom, Mr. Sgrillo said. The center is researching a variety of biological and chemical antidotes to the disease, but preliminary results from the experiments could still take up to a year, he said.