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Cablegate: Fruit Flies Menace Mozambique Exports

VZCZCXRO7048
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHTO #1255/01 3510642
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160642Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9717
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0152
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0142
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 1310
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MAPUTO 001255

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECIN ECON ETRD EINV MZ SF
SUBJECT: FRUIT FLIES MENACE MOZAMBIQUE EXPORTS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In September and October, an ongoing
fruit fly infestation resulted in a ban on Mozambican fruit
and vegetable exports to South Africa and Swaziland, causing
significant damage to farmers, particularly banana exporters
who lost an estimated $2 million. Thanks to quick action by
USDA officers (FAS and APHIS) working from the Embassy in
Pretoria, the South African and Mozambican governments, the
private sector, and Eduardo Mondlane University, the South
African restrictions on banana producers were lifted and
exports resumed. Trade restrictions remain in place in other
areas, notably for mangoes from the Manica region. Farmers
worry that this infestation may not only raise food security
concerns, but also cause a fall in consumer confidence and
investor flight from what could be a significant investment
success story for Mozambique -- large-scale export-driven
plantation agriculture. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The fruit fly species, Bactrocera invadens (Bi),
attacks a variety of fruit and vegetables, including citrus
fruit, bananas, guavas, mangoes, melons, avocados, tomatoes,
and pumpkins. Originally detected in Africa in 2003, this
fruit fly is spreading quickly, and is an especially
aggressive pest that can have significant economic impact on
farmers. In an emergency September meeting between the
Mozambican and the South African Agriculture Agencies, the
governments confirmed two cases of fruit fly infestation,
found in two separate instances in traps on the Vanduzi
plantation in Manica province near the border with Zimbabwe.

-------------------------------------
FRUIT FLY CLOSES BORDER TO AG EXPORTS
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) As a result of the detection, the South African
and Swaziland borders were subsequently closed to Mozambican
fruit and vegetable exports in order to protect South African
agricultural products from infestation. Due to the joint
timely efforts of USDA in Pretoria, Government of
Mozambique's (GRM) Plant Protection Office, the private
sector, and Eduardo Mondlane University, a surveillance and
monitoring program was established in the key banana
producing areas around Maputo. As a result of this
aggressive monitoring effort, it was determined that the pest
has not moved into the southern region, and with no
additional cases of fruit fly infestation reported, South
African authorities agreed in October to allow imports of
bananas from areas under surveillance, as long as no further
detections occurred. In the Manica area, South Africa will
require one year's worth of negative trapping results before
it lifts the ban on imports from that area. Meanwhile an
internal ban remains on the movement of any fruit from Manica
and Niassa provinces, either for export or to other parts of
Mozambique.

---------------------------------------
USDA (FAS and APHIS) PLAYS A VITAL ROLE
---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Regional USDA officers from both the Foreign
Agriculture Service (FAS) and the Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS) have been working intensively on
sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues with a variety of
domestic stakeholders since June 2008 with an aim at
improving Mozambique's SPS systems. APHIS' discussion with
Mozambican authorities on the threat posed by Bi began in
2006, and currently two regional APHIS SPS specialists
continue to work with the GRM National Plant Protection
Office to set and monitor fruit fly traps, collect specimens,
and transport them to South Africa for testing. In October,
this team completed a surveillance program in Cabo Delgado
Province, and confirmed extremely high levels of Bi
infestation.

-----------------------
BANANA EXPORTERS SUFFER
-----------------------

5. (SBU) Banana producers are calling for the Ministry of
Agriculture to support farmers who have lost income due to
the temporary border closure, pointing out that it is
important for the country that banana producers survive this
period of uncertainty. According to Mozambican banana
exporters, the implications of future bans of fruit and
vegetable exports to South Africa would be devastating, since
only two percent of bananas produced domestically are sold
within Mozambique. Mozambican fruit producers have lost

MAPUTO 00001255 002 OF 002


about $2 million because of the South African ban,
disproportionately affecting banana producers, primarily
located in the southern provinces. Put another way,
Mozambique was unable to export as much as 3,000 tons of
bananas to South Africa due to the ban. Roberto Albino,
director of the Agriculture Promotion Center (CEPAGRI)
estimates Mozambique will fall short of its export goal of
30,000 tons of bananas for 2008 due to the fruit fly
infestation and ban. Banana producers point out that any
future ban of longer than one month would result in an
immediate loss of more than 3,000 jobs, at least $10.1
million in foreign earnings, and more importantly, loss of
investor confidence in the Mozambican agriculture sector and
the GRM's SPS capacity.

---------------------------------
FRUIT FLY AND INVESTOR CONFIDENCE
---------------------------------

6. (SBU) The potential for large-scale plantation
agriculture is strong in Mozambique. With 89 million acres
of arable land, of which only 12 percent is currently in use,
viable irrigation, access to ports, and relatively
inexpensive labor and electricity, agriculture could be a
major attraction to foreign investors. Feasibility studies
are currently underway to determine the potential for
additional tropical fruit production, but also plantation
forestry. Mozambique, with a population of over 20 million
people and only 400,000 jobs in the formal sector, depends on
agriculture, which already accounts for 25 percent of GDP, as
a current and future source of employment and export
earnings. Commercial fruit farming is still in its infancy,
with Chiquita Brands International expected to begin
exporting Mozambican bananas to European markets in 2010, for
example. Any subsequent fruit fly infestation, and the
resulting loss in investor confidence, could cause permanent
damage to the industry if not rapidly addressed by Mozambican
agriculture experts.

---------------------------
FRUIT FLY AND FOOD SECURITY
---------------------------

7. (SBU) Should the fruit fly infestation continue moving
south through Mozambique's rich agricultural areas, the pest
could have a significant impact on the country's food
security, and an economic impact on farmers, forcing greater
dependence on food imports for the 75 percent of the
population that relies on agriculture for survival. While
the sector continues to show vulnerability to natural
disasters such as droughts and floods, the addition of a
country-wide Bi infestation could result in additional
pressure on agricultural production, the vast majority of
which comes from small scale subsistence farming.

---------------------------------
COMMENT: CAPACITY BUILDING NEEDED
---------------------------------

8. (SBU) The threat posed by the September fruit fly
infestation to the economic well-being of Mozambican farmers,
to food security, to regional trade, and to potential future
investment in agriculture highlights the ongoing importance
of efforts to monitor this infestation and seek means to
mitigate its impact. The Mission and USDA's regional
presence, based in Pretoria, will continue to provide support
and find lasting solutions to minimize the impact of any
future infestations, while at the same time build SPS
capacity in the GRM. It is essential that further
surveillance programs be implemented south of the areas
already confirmed to have the fruit fly in order to track the
pest's movement. An annihilation and trapping program also
needs to be implemented to slow the fruit fly's spread. FAS
and APHIS will continue to liaise with relevant authorities
across the region to build local SPS capacity, learn more
about control measures, track the pest's movement, assist
with mitigation, and work to minimize trade disruptions due
to the fruit fly infestation.
Amani

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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