San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Country Rats’ Plague Farmers Along Country’s Pacific Coast

A “plague” of rats has cultivated concerns in the agricultural sectors of northwest Costa Rica, causing the government to declare a state of emergency Monday.

The problem is primarily in Guanacaste province, the central Pacific and the region north of Puntarenas, according to a statement from the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry. It mostly affects the production of sugarcane, rice and corn, while pineapple farms also have experienced damages.

It is not so much a plague as an infestation of Central American “country rats” that  eat through the stalks of plants and ruin harvests, said Luis Sánchez, a spokesperson for the ministry.

“It’s a very common species in the Central American region,” Sánchez said. “They attack the base of the plants.”

While the invasion has grown steadily in magnitude for four straight years, this has been the worst year, due to unusually dry conditions that already have left many farmers pulling in smaller yields, Sánchez said. The emergency was declared, he said, so that farmers in affected areas can coordinate with the Plant Health Department in eradicating the rats.

According to Sánchez, the ministry began collecting information on the problem in November of 2008 and has a control campaign in place. He said the ministry is working in a number of areas and is expanding its efforts.

The Plant Health Department, responsible for dealing with the rats, will use antirodent baits and a massive use of rodent traps, according to the statement.

–Daniel Shea


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