Mango farmers are optimistic that their produce will this year be allowed into the European Union (EU) market.
For the past five years, the produce has not gained entry into the EU market after the Europeans imposed a ban on the use of a pesticide known as Dimethoate, which most local farmers were using to control the fruit fly infestation on their farms.
The EU market accounts for over 80 per cent of Kenya’s fruits and other horticultural products.
Besides the ban of Dimethoate, the fruit flies are a quarantine pest under EU market regulations hence yields infected or suspected to be infected by them cannot be exported to that market.
Patrick Simiyu, a mango farmer, said they may access the market this year after successfully containing the fly courtesy of an effective fruit fly trap procured by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and Smart Market Assessment Programme (Smap).
“The last five years have been a nightmare for us. We couldn’t sell our mangoes locally nor export them because they were rotten due to infestation by the flies, but this has changed,” he said.
He added: “We hope to access the lucrative EU market that offers around five times the local price when we harvest between September and November. The fruit flies are gone, and we have a sizeable produce.”
Linah Kemboi from Chemurgui said over 70 per cent of her mangoes were destroyed by the pests in 2015 but the trap had killed the insects that are said to multiply very fast.
“The first time the trap was installed, they were instantly filled with the insects. In a week, over 600 insects would be trapped but we now arrest two or no insect every month,” she said.
Kitale Kephis Manager Alfred Omusuya said losses incurred by farmers prompted them to seek an effective way to eradicate the pest and help them get good market.
He said the trap has a pheromone that attracts male insects and was adopted to achieve International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) endorsed in 2006.
The standards call for the establishment of Pest Free Areas (PFA) for market quarantine insects.
“Fruit flies have been a concern in many countries because they cause damage and restrict access to international markets. The success of the traps in the pilot project is an indicator that mango-growing areas will be declared pest free,” he said.