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New study unlocks banana, avocado export markets

A research on fruit flies has opened export markets for Kenyan banana and avocado farmers. 

The study has established that insects that attack bananas and avocados making then unmarketable do not thrive at certain stages of the fruit plants that can still be exported.

The research was conducted in Kenya and Mozambique to assess the infestation of Bactrocera invadens, an invasive Asian fruit fly, on mature green Cavendish dwarf banana.

“Previously, banana, citrus fruits and avocado from Africa were banned by several importing countries due to the presence of B.invadens,” said by International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) scientist Sunday Ekesi.

The research was conducted by Icipe, Kenya Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis), South African Avocado Growers Association (Saaga), Citrus Research International (CRI), Kenya and Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique.

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The findings also published in the Journal of Applied Entomology makes a case for the lifting of restrictions in lucrative markets of Europe, Middle East and South Africa.

“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 and Senegal,” Dr Ekesi said.

The findings showed that mature green Cavendish dwarf banana are at a non-host stage of the fruit fly thus should not be subjected to quarantine restrictions.

“Of 5,085 fruits collected in Kenya, the fruit fly was reared from all ripening stages except bananas at the mature green stage. The highest level of fruit fly infestation was recorded from the ‘all yellow’ fruit ripening stage at 17 per cent of which 401 B.invadens was recovered,” he said.

However, he recommended that banana bunches with ripened fingers and other damages be carefully inspected before export, as such damage could facilitate attack by the Asian fly.

Meanwhile, Icipe in collaboration with CRI and Saaga have developed a treatment product for fruit fly in citrus and avocado fruits. The Asian flies are ranked high on quarantine lists worldwide.

The fly was first detected along the Kenyan coast in 2003 and within one year it had moved to 10 other countries, spreading first to Tanzania and Uganda, then to Central and West African countries.

By 2010, the pest had been reported in 28 African countries.

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