Commodities

New fly threatens horticulture export amid EU scrutiny

banana

Workers sort bananas for export. FILE PHOTO | NMG

geraldandae

Summary

  • The horticulture sector is on high alert following the discovery of a new pest that threatens Kenya’s export of fresh produce to overseas markets.
  • Drosophila Suzukii, a fruit fly commonly called the spotted-wing drosophila and native to East and South-Asia, was first identified in Kenya in March 2019 in one of the farms in Longonot, according to the department of horticulture.

The horticulture sector is on high alert following the discovery of a new pest that threatens Kenya’s export of fresh produce to overseas markets.

Drosophila Suzukii, a fruit fly commonly called the spotted-wing drosophila and native to East and South-Asia, was first identified in Kenya in March 2019 in one of the farms in Longonot, according to the department of horticulture.

The threat from the fly comes at a time when Kenya’s produce to Europe is facing stricter checks following the presence of some quarantined pests in some of the crops.

“The pest is of major concern to horticulture because it is considered a threat to the production of berries, cherries, grapes, and tomatoes and other fruits especially ripening soft ones,” said Benjamin Tito, head of the Horticulture Directorate.

“Its presence leads to loss of quality and poses major production and trade challenges of berries and other soft-skinned fruits, especially exports to countries where the pest is absent,” he added.

The pest at Longonot Horticulture farm has also been detected in a few uncultivated plants (fruits) near the farm.

The directorate says berries from the farm that were sold in a Nairobi supermarket have also been found to have the pest.

The pest causes major economic losses with a 20 percent damage, witnessed on cherries and berries in Europe in 2018 resulting in about Sh5.1 billion in losses that year.

Longonot Horticulture reported the cost incurred by the company in management of the pest (traps and chemicals-attractants) is Sh750,000 per year with the cost of loss of fruit due to infestation by this pest amounting to Sh2.5 million per year.

Last year, European Union tightened the rules on Kenya’s chili following the presence of Codling Moth pests on the produce, which are quarantine insects in Europe. This has seen nearly all traders who used to export to the EU stop for fear of rejections.

Following the restriction, growers opted for the Middle East market but it is not as lucrative as Europe, forcing traders to offload a lot of the produce locally.