Invasive pest could cause serious damage to fruits and vegetables in South Florida.
Federal and state officials have quarantined some 85 square miles of farmland in Florida, due to an invasion by the Oriental fruit fly, according to npr.org.
The fruit fly, which attacks many varieties of fruits and vegetables, was first noticed near Miami, about two weeks ago. The authorities have stopped the transport of most of the fruits and vegetables from an area called the Redland in Miami-Dade County. The climate there is ideal for growing produce and the growing season is year-round.
Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, declared a state of emergency and issued an order to have all the fruit stripped and destroyed in the areas where the fruit fly has been detected.
Putnam said the fruit fly affects more that 400 types of crops, entering the fruit and laying eggs, causing a very unpleasant condition in the fruit.
Tropical fruit sales have been booming for several years with consumers looking for new varieties. One of the affected fruits is called Dragon fruit and is originally from Asia.
J & C Tropicals Operations Manager Salvador Fernandez said he couldn’t say how much the quarantine is likely to cost the company. He added they have about 500,000 pounds of Dragon fruit left on the trees, and could potentially be as much as 20 million pounds.
Other fruits are also being invaded by the pest, including guavas and passion fruit. But more traditional crops could be potentially be under attack as well, crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash that are due to be planted soon.
The avocado crop has already been hit by a drought and another type of pest, making it a hard year for the growers. Fernandez says if the Oriental fruit fly isn’t contained soon, there could be serious consequences for a $700 million industry in Miami-Dade County.
Authorities have found around 160 Oriental fruit flies so for, but the number is falling. That may indicate the measures undertaken to remove the pest are working. Florida has seen 75 incursions of fruit flies over the last 90 years, and officials are confident their methods will produce a good result.