“It will get here. It’s just a question of how long it’s going to take, and how we respond to the initial incursions.’’ This was the warning sounded by Vaughan Hattingh, CEO of Citrus Research International (CRI), about the anticipated arrival of the huanglongbing (HLB) in Southern Africa after it was confirmed in the Horn of Africa in 2010 and 2014.
According to Hattingh, there is still no effective remedy or sustainable management strategy for HLB, and none on the horizon. The disease resulted in serious yield losses and eventually tree deaths.
“The expectation is that [the insect vector] is on the move and will come down the east coast of Africa and enter South Africa that way,’’ Hattingh said. According to him, the seriousness of a potential HLB outbreak could be appreciated by looking at a similar experience in Florida in the US.
Since being confirmed there in 2005, all citrus orchards were now infected, resulting in 15 million dead trees and an overall decrease in production from 225 million boxes to 45 million boxes in 2017.