(MENAFN - Arab News) The Ministry of Agriculture has taken penal action against 149 Saudis and foreigners for transporting date palm seedlings in violation of regulations.
The ministry has imposed fines totaling SR760,000, in addition to destroying consignments of seedlings and confiscation of trucks involved in their transportation, according to a Saudi Press Agency report.
Fahd Al-Saqan, director general of the farm safety department at the ministry, said that the violations included transportation of palm seedlings without securing a certificate from the authorities showing that the seedlings were free from the Red Palm Weevil. It was also found that these seedlings were not packed properly with stamping of the ministry's logo.
In an earlier circular, the ministry warned that trucks carrying palm seedlings in violations of the regulations would be seized by police and released only after the payment of a fine.
According to the regulations, the fine for each violation is SR5,000. This will be doubled in case of a repetition. A fine amounting to SR10,000 will be imposed against those carrying a fake certificate.
Al-Saqan urged all those who want to purchase and transport palm seedlings from regions where there are no agricultural quarantines to obtain the certificate from the nearest branch office of the ministry. "Those violating the regulations would face punitive actions, including destruction of truckloads of palm seedlings and taking the vehicles into custody until payment of fines," he said adding that the regions that implemented the agricultural quarantine system included Qateef, Al-Ahsa, Wadi Al-Dawasir, Al-Kharj and some branches and centers in Riyadh, Tabuk and Najran regions.
Al-Saqan urged all Saudis and foreigners to abide by the provisions of agricultural quarantine system in order to bolster the ministry's efforts to eradicate the devastating Red Palm Weevil. He also called on all date palm farmers to quickly inform the ministry's branch office in case of an outbreak of the disease.
In January 2011, the Kingdom launched a SR120 million national campaign to fight the Red Palm Weevil, an effort led by 1,500 specialists in farms throughout the Kingdom, and aimed at saving millions of palm trees. Since 1987 when the beetles surfaced in the Kingdom, they have infected tens of thousands of date palm trees, seriously threatening the vital industry.
In 2010 alone, the Red Palm Weevil affected an estimated 60,000 palm trees, with 30,000 having to be destroyed. The weevil menace has become an international concern, with the Kingdom's problem areas including Al-Ahsa, Qatif, Al-Kharj, Wadi Al-Dawasir, Diriya, Tabuk, Najran, Makkah, and Qassim.