Plants regulator has raised the alarm over emergence of papaya mealybug pest that now poses a threat to Kenya’s multibillion-shilling export market.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) said the mealybug, which has so far devastated papaya in the coastal region, poses a serious threat to roses and vegetables.
Kephis managing director Esther Kimani called for quick intervention to tame the spread, warning that failure to do so could inflict heavy losses on the horticulture sector.
“Papaya mealybug is now becoming as serious threat that can affect our vegetables and roses if we do not contain it on time,” said Dr Kimani.
The bug, according to the agency, can cause losses of up to 70 percent when it attacks a crop.
Kephis said it will have no option but to ban export crops found to be infected by the pest as they will fail to conform with the phytosanitary requirements of zero tolerance to pests.
Phytosanitary requirements are a key condition that countries have to comply with or risk export ban.
For instance, avocados from Kenya was denied access to the South African market 10 years ago after the country’s authorities raised concerns over the presence of disease causing fruit fly in the avocado coming from Kenya.
Kenya’s avocado has also been given stringent rules to adhere to before it gets access to the lucrative Chinese market.
In October, Australia tightened its rules on exports of Kenyan roses saying that they could only accept the flowers if they comply with the zero-pest rule.
Previously, the country would fumigate the flowers at the port of entry before the new rule took effect in October.
Kephis said the pests were first spotted in Mombasa but had moved to other parts of the country.
“We have seen them affecting other crops too especially when the papaya is off season,” said Isaac Macharia, general manager in charge of phytosanitary at Kephis.
In Mwea, the bug has devastated hundreds of farmers who are planting cotton.