BAHA quarantines portion of the south over Meditaranen Fruit Fly

vlcsnap-2013-07-15-19h50m05s216A 24-hour quarantine checkpoint has been placed on the southern highway after Mediterranean fruit flies were detected at various points in the Toledo District, Mango Creek and along the Placencia Peninsula. The Mediterranean Fruit Fly, also known as Ceratitis Capitata, is considered as one of the world’s most destructive fruit pests, capable of causing extensive damage to fruit crops and in turn can be detrimental to Belize’s import market. As a result of these detections, BAHA has quarantined a portion of the Stann Creek District and the entire Toldeo District. Earlier today we spoke with Plant Health Officer, who is also responsible for the med Fly Prgoram in Belize, Ernan Zetina.

Ernan Zetina – Plant Health Officer: 
vlcsnap-2013-07-15-19h52m11s199The first detection for this year of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, a pest that is not present in Belize was in late April, early May. Since that time, we have had numerous detections and we have reached a point where we have determined that we need to implement an internal quarantine in order to prevent this fly from moving from the south into the north. The reason we have implemented the quarantine is that we would have much to lose if the Med Fly was found in northern Belize for export to the US market. If the Med Fly was detected in that area, we would immediately lose our export market for papayas and so we would lose foreign exchange earnings in excess of US ten million dollars.

BAHA is asking the public to cease illegal importation of fresh fruits and vegetables from infested areas such as Guatemala and Honduras, and also to stop movement of fresh fruits and vegetables from the designated quarantine area. Mr Zetina also spoke on just how long the quarantine will be in place.

Ernan Zetina – Plant Health Officer:
At this point in time, we have set up the quarantine and we will have it there for at least six weeks, depending on what the results of our survey lands program determines, then we might need to do it for an additional six weeks, or we might determine that we can remove it after six weeks. We are asking people not to bring Med Fly host commodities from Southern Belize, across the checkpoint into Central and Northern Belize. These fruits include mango, craboo, papayas, oranges. Most fruits that has a soft flesh would normally be host to the Med Fly, but it’s not necessary that way, so if you have any doubts, you can always check at the BAHA offices. 

vlcsnap-2013-07-15-19h49m59s156Now consumers, don’t panic, as Ernan Zetina explained, there is are threats for those who eat a fruit infested with the Med Fly.

Ernan Zetina – Plant Health Officer:
There is absolutely no threats for humans that consume a fruit that would be infested with the Med Fly. It would be like eating a guava that would be infested with a fruit fly worm. Most people would not eat it anyway, because as soon as they bite into the fruit and see that there is a worm, they would throw away the fruit and that is one of the ways that the Med Fly spreads. People would go into the neighbouring countries that have a Med Fly outbreak, buy for example stuff that they can’t get in Belize, an apple or a pear, bring it into Belize, bite into it, they see a worm and throw it along the road and this is how the med Fly gets introduced to Belize.

Meanwhile, BAHA is taking measures to eradicate the situation.

Ernan Zetina – Plant Health Officer:
We would like to ask the cooperation of the public. It’s necessary for us to contain this pest in Southern Belize. We are carrying out an eradication program right now and you will see officers, if you live in an area where we have detected these flies, you will see officers going with backpacks, sprayers, spraying a chemical. The chemical is very safe. It’s approached for us in organic production and so if you live in an area where they are spraying, if you want to eat the fruit, you can. All you have to do is wash the fruit properly. Again, if you want to import fruits from Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras, there is a legal way you can approach any of the BAHA offices and apply for a permit.

According to the BAHA Act, anyone who willingly moves a restricted article, which in this case is any Med Fly host listed earlier, can be charged for a few hundred dollars, up to a maximum of ten thousand dollars.

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