New research by a consortium of fresh produce organisations in Africa has opened the door for the continent's banana, avocado and citrus growers to lucrative markets in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.
The studies were conducted by the Kenya-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), in collaboration with the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), the South African Avocado Growers Association (SAAGA) and the same country's Citrus Research International (CRI), as well as Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique.
African bananas, citrus and avocados had previously been banned by several importing countries due to the presence of an invasive Asian fruit fly called Bactrocera invadens.
"Our studies have now convinced countries like South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands to remove their quarantine restrictions for such produce from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal, et cetera,” ICIPE scientist Sunday Ekesi told Africa Science News.
ICIPE and the collaborating organisations conducted the research on bananas in Kenya and Mozambique and found that mature green Cavendish dwarf bananas were not a host for the pest and should not therefore be subject to quarantine restrictions.
The researchers did recommend, however, that banana bunches showing early signs of ripening or damage be carefully inspected prior to export, as such characteristics facilitate attack from B. invadens. Nevertheless, a cold disinfestation treatment has reportedly been developed for the pest by ICIPE, CRI and SAAGA.
One UK-based citrus importer suggested that having a greater choice of sources was never a bad thing, but that a rise in imports from such countries would always be gradual, even if it could be assumed that no issues would arise in terms of the varieties on offer, the quality of the fruit or the practicalities of transportation.