Medfly Alarm down South Print E-mail
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Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00

BAHA’s checkpoint in Silk Grass VillageThe Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) has implemented a quarantine for the southern part of the country south of Silk Grass Village. According to Hernan Zetina, Medfly coordinator with BAHA, the quarantine for fruits and vegetables became necessary after an unusually high number of Medflies were detected in Mango Creek, Placencia and Punta Gorda. On a yearly basis, Zetina says that every year between 5 and 12 Medflies are detected in the country but these are quickly placed under control.

The Mediterranean Fruitfly (Medfly) is and economically devastating agricultural pest that attacks over 300 tropical fruits. This year, BAHA's surveillance program detected 51 flies which is an unusual amount. The most recent detection was on Monday, July 15th on the Placencia Peninsula. Last week alone 18 flies were detected. According to Zetina, since the flies were detected, preventative measures have been put in place to ensure that the fly does not propagate. These measures include the spraying of fruit trees as well as stripping them and destroying the fruits. The Medfly is a plague that is well established in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras and Zetina says the introduction of the fly into Belize most likely came as a result of persons bringing in fresh fruits and vegetables from these neighboring countries.

For the time being, BAHA has established the quarantine to prevent the northward movement of the flies. This quarantine is seeing BAHA personnel stopping any fruits or vegetables from making its way northward from Silk Grass Village. The checkpoint confiscates fruits and vegetables and these are destroyed by pureeing the products and burying it. According to Margarito Garcia, Director of Quarantine with BAHA, the quarantine is usually the last effort that is implemented as it is a great inconvenience to residents; however, it is absolutely necessary in order to protect large agricultural exports. Among those exports is the citrus industry and the papaya industry. If ever there was a detection of the Medflies in the northern part of the country, it would mean the immediate discontinuation of papaya exports, which would significantly affect the U.S $10 million industry. The Medfly also has the potential of destroying up to 15 percent of citrus production.

Garcia stated that this is not the first time that BAHA has had to resort to quarantine as a means of control. Back in 2003, there was a similar exercise implemented for the same reason. This most recent quarantine will remain in effect for 6 weeks initially after which it will be determined if it should be extended.