Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ministry of Agriculture calms fears over Asian fruit fly scourge

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) have vowed to eradicate the spread of the Asian fruit fly which is currently harassing some farmers in the North East and Central Districts.

The outbreak which was reported this year in July is believed to have spread from neighboring countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe. It was first detected in Ditladi and Maitengwe villages.

The pest has greatly affected fruit trade in the country as the import of fruits into the country from the neighboring countries was affected. Botswana currently imports 34,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to supplement the 41,000 tonnes produced locally.
The Asian fruit fly attacks tomatoes, butternuts, mangoes, watermelons, bananas, apricots and peaches among other fruits.

Briefing the Francistown City Council (FCC) meeting last week, the District Plant Protection officer, Dr Thabakgolo Onalenna, said that they have managed to contain the spread as no new cases have been reported to date. He said they quarantined affected farms in Tuli Block, Ditladi and Maitengwe villages.

“We have set ourselves a three months target from October to December this year. We have placed traps in areas that we believe have fruit flies in the North East District and the Central District but the good news is that we have not detected any new invasions so far. We believe that we will be able to control the situation. We suspect that this fly was spread through Tuli Block from South Africa and Zimbabwe,” he said.

Dr Onalenna urged councilors to spread the message to their communities so that preventive measures are taken.

“We also implore you as the city councilors to invite us to your meetings so that we can inform community members about this scourge and further inform them about the chemicals used to quarantine the affected plants because they are very poisonous. Together we can defeat this scourge,” he said.

As part of the measures to eliminate the invasions, Dr Onalenna said that special permits will be required for those who want to import fruits from outside.

He further said that all plant products will only be allowed into the country at approved ports of entry; and travelers into the country will be inspected at border posts and airports.

However, the councilors took swipe at the officials over their failure to expeditiously inform them about the scourge.

“This outbreak was reported four months back and you have been quiet without informing us or updating us about the scourge. You should have long informed us when the outbreak began because we would have informed the communities,” said councilor Tabengwa Tabengwa of Ikageng Ward.

However Dr Onalenna apologized saying that they first had to attend to the invasion in the areas that were badly affected hence the delay.

District Agriculture Coordinator Alfred Mashungwa also updated the councilors on the on-going re-stocking exercise saying that it is on course. He said that out of 30 720 cattle to be replaced, 19 205 cattle have been bought and 8 227 has been distributed to 1 003 farmers, while 11 497 cattle are still to be bought.

“Out of 14 000 small stock that has to be replaced we have already bought 8 000,” he added.

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