Kenya reclaims banana export markets after ban lift

Kenyan farmers are among thousands in Africa set to resume export of banana, avocado and citrus to Europe and South Africa after the countries lifted bans blamed on an invasive fruit fly and which has cost Kenya millions in export bans.

Several researchers from Africa and across the globe which conducted studies on the presence of an invasive Asian fruit fly known as Bactrocera invadens convinced EU, Middle East and some African countries to remove such restrictions on the produce. "Our studies have now convinced countries like South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands to remove their quarantine restrictions for such produce from Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal among others," Scientist Sunday Ekesi from the Nairobi-based International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The studies were conducted by ICIPE in collaboration with the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), the South African Avocado Growers Association (SAAGA) and the country's Citrus Research International (CRI), and Eduardo Mondlane University of Mozambique.

Previously, banana, citrus and avocado from Africa were banned by several importing countries due to the presence of an invasive Asian fruit fly known as Bactrocera invadens.

The statement said ICIPE and the collaborating organizations conducted the research on banana in Kenya and Mozambique, to assess the infestation of Bactrocera invadens on the Cavendish dwarf variety during different ripening stages.

Ekesi noted that the findings in the Journal of Applied Entomology, showed mature green Cavendish dwarf banana to be a non-host stage of Bactrocera invadens, meaning that this particular variety should therefore not be subjected to quarantine restrictions. However, the researchers recommend that banana bunches with precociously ripened fingers and other damages be carefully inspected before export, as such damage could facilitate attack by Bactrocera invadens.

ICIPE in collaboration with CRI and SAAGA have developed a cold disinfestation treatment for Bactrocera invadens in citrus and avocado fruits.

Ekesi noted that by applying the protocols, published in 2011 and 2012 in the Journal of Economic Entomology, growers in sub Saharan African countries infested by Bactrocera invadens will now be able to export avocado and citrus to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.