The Belize Agricultural Health Authority has detected the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, commonly known as the medfly, along the Placencia Peninsula. The medfly has been found in several backyards but BAHA says they were brought in through contraband fruits and vegetables. Several weeks back, the medfly was detected in Hopkins but BAHA successfully eradicated the pest. The BAHA team is now carrying out several measures to eradicate this new outbreak that has the potential to affect the livelihoods of many Belizeans. Today, we spoke with BAHA’s deputy director Hernan Zetina about the medfly outbreak in the south.

Via Phone: Hernan Zetina, Deputy Director, Plant Health, BAHA
“Placencia, it is pretty much in backyard and we have identified some areas that have a lot of host which are almonds or hammonds as they are commonly known in Belize. So, these are the primary hosts for medfly. So, we are doing pruning of these host trees, so we are asking the public to please cooperate with us. I am happy to report that most people have been very cooperative with us. We have asked people to give us the permission to enter their property to remove the fruit. We are in the process of doing that and we are also doing some other control measures such as putting up additional traps to ensure that if there is any established population we are able to detect it timely. Since Belize has a Medfly free status we do not have this fly established in Belize and they are only introduced when people bring fruits that are infested into the country. We do believe based on the characteristics of the detections that this is happening because of the contraband. We have credible information that there are people who travel to Honduras, come back to Placencia with fruits and vegetables that are host to the Medfly and sell these along the peninsula, the resorts and people along the peninsula and this is the reason why we think we are having these issues. What happens is that the Medfly lays its egg in the fruit and once the eggs start to develop, it develops into a larvae or a worm. So, if you find a fruit that has worms, if it is a fresh fruit such as hammonds, mango, guava these are normally host to different types of fruit flies. So, most people wouldn’t be able to identify whether it is a medfly or fruitfly. So, we ask the public if they find medfly or larvae in their fruits to please report it to the nearest BAHA office and we will send qualified technicians who are able to identify the flies.”

Andrea Polanco
“Now, when we hear about the medfly, can you talk to us why this is such a concern for BAHA; that we control the medfly – we eradicate it?”

Via Phone: Hernan Zetina
“Right. The main concern for Belize in having medfly is that it prevents the free flow of commercial trade. So, if a country has medflies, countries that do not have this pest do not allow you to export your fresh fruits to their country. We export fresh fruits to the US and so if we were unable to control and contain this pest and it got into the area that we are producing fresh fruits for export, then that market would immediately be closed. So, we would lose foreign exchange earnings, people would lose their jobs. In an area like Placencia that do not have any commercial production it also affects the bonafide farmers who earn their livelihoods by selling their backyard fruits such as mangoes, guavas or plums. If we had to implement an internal quarantine because couldn’t control this outbreak here in Placencia then it would also cause unnecessary inconvenience for people who wanted to move their fruits from one area to the next.”

BAHA issued a press release on Tuesday to say that the situation will not improve unless the public refrains from bringing in illegal produce into Belize and selling them. You are advised to get in touch with BAHA if you wish to import fresh produce. The public is advised that a quarantine may become necessary in order to prevent the medfly from moving into other areas. If you have any information about contraband products in the country, get in touch with BAHA at 824-4899.

Channel 5