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Jul 15, 2013

Mediterranean Fruit Fly in the south

Hernan Zetina

For the first time, the presence of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly has been detected in Belize. The Belize Agricultural Health Authority is reporting multiple sightings of the fly in south and has activated a twenty-four hour check point in the village of Silk Grass, Stann Creek. BAHA wants to stop the fly from spreading to the citrus industry and farther north to the papaya fields to prevent millions of dollars in losses in exports to the United States. Plant Health Officer, Hernan Zetina, has been assigned as coordinator for the Mediterranean Fruit Fly Program and he notes that the pest was introduced to the country via illegal entry of products from neighboring Guatemala and Honduras where there is a high count of the medfly.

 

Via Phone: Hernan Zetina, Coordinator, Medfly Program

“We’ve had to implement an internal quarantine in order to contain this fly first and foremost in this area, control it and eventually eradicate it. This is necessary for us to maintain our export markets for fresh fruits such as papayas and to ensure that the fly does not become established in citrus producing areas in Belize. First detection for this year was made in late April, early May and at that time we implemented eradication measures because we were finding one or two flies in specific areas. At that time, it was necessary to implement an internal quarantine because with the eradication activities in place we were able to contain the fly. However, over the last two weeks, the amount of flies that we have detected has increased exponentially and so we decided that it was necessary to implement this quarantine.  The Mediterranean Fruit Fly lays its eggs in fruit and when the egg turns into larvae or worm it destroys the fruit. But most importantly for Belize is the fact that if we were to detect this medfly in areas that are producing fruit for export, we would immediately lose that market. Again if we were to detect the fly in the north of Belize, we would lose our papaya industry so we are talking about foreign exchange earnings in excess of ten million U.S. of dollars per annum and we could put in jeopardy thousands of jobs for people who are directly or indirectly employed with these industries. So that for us is the biggest threat; the loss of export market.  The Citrus industry is not being affected because the factories are closed right now beucase there are no fruits to process; however, if we continue to find flies and there comes a point where there are fruits to process, we have a citrus harvesting protocol with the citrus industry and so we would still be able to move fruits from southern Belize to the factory and those fruits would have to be immediately process. Coming back to your previous question, we do believe that these medflies are being introduced into Belize by people who bring in illegal commodities. They go over to Guatemala or Honduras without an import permit from BAHA; they bring in these fruits that are invested. So we do believe that that is the source of the infestation.  If we were to detect this medfly in northern Belize, then we would immediately lose our access to market such as the U.S. and so this is why we decided to implement this quarantine. The quarantine was put up on July thirteenth and at Silk Grass. And so all areas south of Silk Grass including the Toledo District in under quarantine. This means that no fruits or vegetables that are host to the Mediterranean fruit fly can be removed from the quarantine area.”

 

Zetina says that several other check points will be put in place in the following days. The fruits that are infested with the medfly include: craboo, mangos, orange, papaya, plums and others. More information is available at any of BAHA offices countrywide. 

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2 Responses for “Mediterranean Fruit Fly in the south”

  1. sickntired says:

    People need fi cooperate with baha otherwise the country and agriculture and we food going to be damaged.

  2. venus says:

    Been monitoring this infestation for over ten years and come to the conclusion that someone in BAHA make up this story in mid July almost every year in order to have a family vacation in southern Belize. Calling on the ministry of Agriculture to cross check these findings and have independent people to verify. Findings like these affect farmers bottom line, it cost farmers to use pesticide to control pest in their farms and orchards.

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