Leaking borders to blame for fruit fly outbreak in Limpopo

Limpopo farmers are blaming uncontrolled border movements for the recent outbreak of the invader fruit fly, Bactrocera invadens (BI).

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A quarantine pest, BI has hit fruit farms in the Vhembe District Municipality of Limpopo. According to Theo de Jager, deputy president of Agri SA, there was inadequate control of people moving across the country’s borders. De Jager said little research into the prevention of outbreaks was carried out in South Africa. “Technology could help stop outbreaks of pests before they reach the country’s borders,” he said.

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) spokesperson Selby Bokaba said BI is an invasive species which causes severe damage to a wide variety of host plants, including mango, citrus, guava, papaya and bananas. Bokaba said BI was detected in areas adjoining the Limpopo River in February in the Beitbridge, Weipe and the Pontdrift areas.

“We then found it in Musina, Tshipise and Louis Trichardt.” DAFF and the fruit industry have had contingency plans in place since 2006. “These include a surveillance programme as part of an early warning system against exotic fruit flies,” said Bokaba. Siganya Nyelisani, fruit farmer and member of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa in Makhado, said no measures had been implemented in his area and he had received no communication from the department about the BI fruit fly.

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