Mozambique: Fruit Fly Infestation Threatens Exports

Maputo — The Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture has expressed serious concern about the spread of the fruit fly, which is posing a serious threat to exports of Mozambican fruit and vegetables.

The insect was first detected in Mozambique in 2018, apparently entering the country from Kenya. Initially it attacked fruit crops in the northern and central provinces, but the fly has now spread throughout the country.

In 2018, the pest forced the authorities to stop exports of fruit for three weeks, at a cost of about 2.5 million US dollars.

Speaking on Monday at the opening of a five day regional workshop on the fruit fly, the National Director of Agriculture, Pedro Zucula, said fruit fly infestations were "a major concern for our country, and have caused enormous damage to producers".

He said that, since it was first detected, various initiatives have been undertaken to neutralise the pest and to minimize its effects on agricultural production.

"We have carried out monitoring, surveillance and control campaigns against the fruit fly", Zucula continued. "We have been holding regular training sessions, in order to contain the pest so that it does not spread to other areas".

To achieve success in fighting the fruit fly, the Ministry of Agriculture has been working in coordination with the European Union and with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in implementing technical assistance projects, valued at 170,000 dollars.

"The challenge right now", said Zucula, "is to mobilise other resources to combat other pests, such as Panama disease, which severely affects bananas".

Panama disease (more properly known as Fusarium Wilt) is caused by a soil-borne fungus, and devastates banana plantations. In the 1950s the fungus came close to wiping out the dominant commercial variety, the Gros Michel banana. The Gros Michel was replaced by the Cavendish but that too is now under threat.

According to the FAO representation in Mozambique, about 20 per cent of all losses in fruit and vegetables in the country are caused by the fruit fly. The fruit species most attacked have been bananas, guavas and mangoes.

FAO representative Coelho da Silva recommended controlling the health of orchards by destroying all fallen fruit, the appropriate use of insecticide bait, and male annihilation (using a male lure, combined with an insecticide, to reduce the number of male fruit flies to such a level that reproduction is unlikely to occur). The combination of these methods can drastically cut the levels of infestation.

About 16 countries are represented at the Maputo workshop, with delegations including government officials, researchers, and private companies.

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