Scientists develop biopesticide to tame fruit fly

A bio pesticide that tames the spread of the voracious fruit fly has been developed by scientists at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), a move that could save over 30 to 100 percent fruit yields that are lost to the fly.

 “Over 80 percent of small-scale farmers grow fruits in the continent but due to the infestation of fruit flies, they lose between 30-100 percent of fruits to maggots that feed on the pulps estimated at over $2 billion annually,” Sunday Ekesi, ICIPE’s leader for Fruit Fly Program said.

He said that Kenya has lost over Sh200million dollars 2008 due to quarantine restrictions imposed on avocado export to South Africa as a result of the infestation of the flies. The U.S. federal order has also placed total ban on several horticultural produce from countries in Africa where Bactrocera invaders have been reported.

The new measure he said includes monitoring the fruits, application of parasitoid, orchard sanitation, male annihilation, bait spray and post harvest management. Kenya’s exports of fruit juice are strong and growing and are the market leader in East Africa and could become dominant in other Africa markets.

Exports of fresh passion fruit to Uganda and fresh mango to Tanzania have also increased significantly over the past three years due to favorable 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 market.

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, employ many people, contributes to low production costs and also enables farmers to access inputs,” he added.

ICIPE has also developed and commercialized a biopesticides 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 commercialized whereas in most countries in Africa, they are under registration.

He said that the control measure is highly effective and should be propagated in the whole 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 – mango, pineapple and passion fruit.

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 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 vegetable are more easily exported among Member States and 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 PRA 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 Africa are sustained over a long period of time.