• Fruit flies cause damages of up to 40-80 per cent, equivalent to a loss of Sh50 billion per year.
• Makueni County leading in mango production in Kenya with total of 4.3 million mango trees value of Sh4.7 billion.
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.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana said his county leads in mango production, with 4.3 million mango trees grown by 109,465 farmers, producing 280,238 metric tonnes valued atSh4.7 billion.
Kibwana said the county is taking several steps to address problems in the fruit and vegetable sector by establishing the Makueni Fruit Processing Factory.
“The factory has led to better prices for farmers, with a kilo of mangoes selling at Sh18. We are engaging the association of mango buyers, so they don’t exploit farmers. The private sector must make a profit but it should not be at the expense of farmers. We want a win-win situation,” he said.
Machakos county is second with 506,544 mango trees cultivated by 17, 676 farmers.
A 2010 report by the Institution of Development and Management shows that income from mango farming contributes about 40 per cent of farm household income in the region.
Kimani of the plant inspectorate service said the potential to contribute to the economic and nutritional security of smallholder farmers has not been fully exploited due to the pest.
“Damage to the mangoes by fruit fly which has been reported to range from 40 to 80 per cent, resulting in increased cost of production, low-quality fruits and post-harvest losses. This is a loss of as much as Sh50 billion per year," Kimani said.
She spoke in a Nairobi hotel while announcing a campaign to eradicate fruit flies.
The campaign has been started to eradicate mango fruit fly to help lift the ban on exports. It will be implemented in Makueni and Kitui counties by the mango Technical Working Group, which comprises plant service and other government departments, donor organisations, mango traders, researchers, innovators and the private sector.
The two-year Komesha Fruit Fly campaign will be launched on January 22 in Makueni county.
The PS said the pest-free area in Makueni targets 7,500 households under phase 1, covering about 3,000 hectares.
Agriculture PS Boga said there will be at least one modern packing house fitted with hot water treatment equipment, certification of mango farms and produce, capacity building of stakeholders in the mango value chain; development of modern mango collection centres in every ward and creation of a modern open-air market facility for local marketing of mangoes and other fresh produce.
Kimani said the campaign is expected increased mango exports by 30 per cent in the first year.
"Through this campaign, the county is also engaging cooperatives and other players to enforce good agricultural practices with a view to producing quality fruits that are disease-free,” Kibwana said.
(Edited by V. Graham)