Kenyan mango farmers are losing out on the Sh1.3 trillion international export market due to fruit fly infestation. Fruit flies damage 40 to 80 per cent of crops, equivalent to a loss of Sh50 billion per year. The pests damage more than 200 types of fruits and vegetables.
An adult female fruit fly can lay 100 to 1,000 eggs during her lifetime on fruits and vegetables. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to feed within the fruit, causing it to rot and drop to the ground.
The flies are a major export barrier. The EU, US, Japan, China, New Zealand and Australia don't want Kenya mangoes.
Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga on Friday urged mango value chain players to work together to ensure mangoes from Kenya are exported to international premium markets through good agricultural practices and knowledge of market requirements.
In 2014, Kenya imposed a ban on the export of mangoes to the EU due to fruit flies.
“They have strict regulations to prevent importation of infested fruits. The fruit fly problem led to numerous interceptions of mango consignments by the EU authority between 2010 and 2014,” Boga said.
Managing director Dr Esther Kimani of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service said Kenya imposed the EU ban since fruit flies are classified as quarantine pests. Kenya previously was unable to meet sanitary restrictions.
She said the ban is expected to be lifted early next year but this can only happen if Kenya ensures required regulations are met. Kimani said the service is creating and monitoring pest-free areas that will reduce post-harvest losses by 50 per cent.
Fruit fly traps will also be used, both commercial and home-made, attracting files with apple cider vinegar and old fruit and trapping them in plastic. They are hung on mango trees.
The domestic value of horticulture production is more than Sh216 billion; fruits alone contribute Sh57.5 billion —26.5 per cent of the total value in 2016.
Mangoes are the second-most-common fruit produced in Kenya after bananas. Mangoes are grown on 49,098 hectares producing 779, 147 metric tonnes valued at Sh11.9 billion. This is about 21 per cent of the total value of fruits produced in Kenya.