Scientists at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) say the measure is expected to save many fruit-growing countries in the continent where the crops play an important role in the economy by ensuring food security, improved income and creation of employment.
“Over 80 per cent of small-scale farmers grow fruits but due to infestation of fruit flies, they lose between 30-100 per cent of fruits to maggots that feed on the pulps estimated at over $2 billion annually,” explains Dr Sunday Ekesi, leader for Fruit Fly Programme at ICIPE.
Addressing a media briefing Ekesi notes that Kenya has lost $2 million since 2008 due to quarantine restrictions imposed on avocado exports to South Africa as a result of infestation of the flies.
The United States of America federal order has also placed a total ban on several horticultural produce from countries in Africa where Bactrocera invadens have been reported.
According to Ekesi, the new measure includes monitoring the fruits, application of parasitoid, orchard sanitation, male annihilation, bait spray and post-harvest management.
Kenya is a leading exporter of fruit juice in East Africa and could become dominant in other African markets. Exports of fresh passion fruit to Uganda and fresh mango to Tanzania have also increased significantly over the past three years due to favourable climatic conditions and suitable varieties.
Mangoes, avocadoes and passion fruit are the most important export fruits from Kenya to South Africa and the Middle East markets. These crops are of strategic importance as they provide cash income, contribute significantly to the nutrition and household food budgets of producers.
“The management measure in addition to the implementation of the European Union’s Maximum Residue Levels helps in improving yields, employs many people, contributes to low production costs and also enables farmers to access inputs,” Ekesi explains.
ICIPE has also developed and commercialised a bio-pesticides Campaign and Achieve against thrips, mealy bugs and fruit flies in collaboration with partnership with private sector.
In Kenya, Campaign and Achieve are registered and commercialised whereas in most countries in Africa, they are under registration.
Ekesi notes that the control measure is highly effective and should be propagated across the continent.
According to a study of the African market for Kenyan processed fruit products, the country is well positioned to expand production of the three main tropical fruits which include mango, pineapple and passion. In a bid to improve intra-regional trade and open up markets for the region’s immense agricultural produce, Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) has started engaging member states in finding solutions to trade barriers.
COMESA’s Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Unit is involved in an exercise to map the pest risks that Kenya is facing in exporting fruits and also finding the means to address these risks.
COMESA is also in the process of compiling the Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) for packaged chillies and fruit exports to South Africa from Kenya. The body seeks to open more trade doors so that the region’s fruits and vegetables are more easily exported among member states and to the rest of the world.
This pest risk analysis is singularly targeted at accessing the South African market and the information gathered will be useful in fulfilling pest risk analysis requirements to address other market access requirements for plant produce destined from the country.
COMESA is working with the exporters to propose mitigation measures that are cost effective and affordable, thus ensuring COMESA horticulture exports into the South African markets are sustained over a long period of time.
This article was oroginally published in the reject