Seychelles has issued a temporary ban on imports of fresh tomatoes from South Africa due to an invasive pest known as the Tomato Leaf Miner (TutaAbsoluta) even as the authorities stated that the unwanted guest may have already made its way into Seychelles. The agriculture ministry yesterday announced their emergency action plan to contain and eliminate the potential threat.
“As a precautionary action, the National Biosecurity Agency (NBA) has found it prudent to stop importing fresh tomatoes from South Africa since the country has recently been stricken by the TutaAbsoluta, a tomato leaf miner causing a lot of havoc and damage to the tomato crop. The Trade & Import Division of the ministry of Finance has been alerted about the matter and were advised not to issue any new import permits for fresh tomatoes from the South African market,” said the chief executive officer (CEO) of NBA, Marc Naiken during a press conference last week at the ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
A representative from the NBA explained that the TutaAbsoluta is a species of moth well known as a serious pest of tomato crops in Europe and South America. The larva feeds voraciously upon tomato plants, producing large galleries in leaves, burrowing in stalks and consuming apical buds and ripe fruits. Tomato is the main host plant, but the pest is also capable of attacking other crop plants such as potato, eggplant, pepper and tobacco. “Up until a few years ago, the risk of TutaAbsoluta within sub Saharan Africa seemed to be remote. However, it has recently advanced rapidly to South Africa endangering the local tomato market in the region,” the NBA said.
The agency explained that there was a possibility the invasive pest had already reached Seychelles following the visit conducted by NBA technicians to a tomato plantation in Anse Royale, on Mahe – Seychelles’ main island.
Meanwhile, the NBA revealed that they are already in the process of implementing an emergency action plan to contain and eliminate the potential threat whilst they wait for the confirmation. This consisted of using their technicians to conduct a major inspection of the entire one-kilometre demarcation zone which was initially reported by the farmers and another five-kilometre zone to establish the spread of the pest.
Vendor reckons that the temporary ban on fresh tomatoes from South Africa will not lead to shortage in the market being given that there will be an abundance of fresh local tomatoes from February to April. “By then, many wholesalers would have already placed their orders for fresh tomatoes to be imported from Europe or other places,” said the 48-year vendor.