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Countries Coordinate Online to Strengthen Fruit and Vegetable Production in Latin America and the Caribbean

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A series of virtual meetings took place on 14, 17 and 24 April and 1 May to coordinate pest control and plant health activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Photo: N. Schloegl/IAEA)

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the presence of endemic and invasive fruit flies has for years taken a phytosanitary toll on the critical fruit and vegetable industry. These pests reduce the volume of production by 15% to 30% and lead to an increase in costs for pre-harvest control measures and post-harvest treatments that are normally required if the crops are exported. Eighteen countries are cooperating under an ongoing IAEA technical cooperation (TC) project[1] on fruit fly pest management, implemented in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to foster rural livelihoods and national food security and to facilitate access to markets within and outside the region.

Fruit and vegetable production is a significant economic activity in Latin American and the Caribbean, representing between 8% and 20% of the national Gross Domestic Production (GDP) in the countries participating in the technical cooperation project. Launched in January 2020, at the start of the International Year of Plant Health, the regional project aims to improve and increase fruit and vegetable production using an area-wide integrated pest management (AW-IPM) approach that includes the sterile insect technique (SIT), and to facilitate the adoption of this techniques in Member States. Ultimately, the project will promote and enlarge the contribution of food production activities to reducing hunger, generating employment, and driving domestic and international trade.

By strengthening the capacities of counterparts in the region to expand AW-IPM schemes, and improve pest detection capacity and immediate related response measures including through the integration of the SIT with other pest control methods, the project supports compliance with the International Standards of Phytosanitary Measures of the International Plant Protection Convention.

A close-up of Mexican fruit fly (Anastrepha ludens) adults at the Insect Pest Control Laboratory. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Given the current travel restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of virtual meetings took place on 14, 17 and 24 April and 1 May to coordinate pest control and plant health activities. The meetings were attended by the project counterparts, who are representatives of National Plant Protection Organizations, who discussed the baseline and objectives of the project, and revised the project work plan. Communication experts from the partner institutions also took part in the virtual meetings to develop a comprehensive awareness strategy to increase the visibility of the project's progress with national authorities and the general public, and to ensure clear communication between integrated pest management stakeholders.

"The situation of fruit fly pests varies across countries, so the project seeks to harmonize and level-out the use of innovative technologies in the region, by transferring knowledge which supports the monitoring and control of pests," said Walther Enkerlin, an FAO/IAEA Entomologist and the Technical Officer of the project. The goal is to enable countries to adopt measures on pest control and quarantine, and to facilitate the transfer of technologies and the exchange of knowledge between countries.

This project builds upon previous IAEA efforts[2] which have contributed to the region’s current fruit and vegetable production and export capacities, particularly as regards production and export from fruit fly-free and low-prevalence areas in several countries in the region.

"Thanks to the experience of participating in the previous project, the communication, transfer of technology and information sharing between participating countries was more fluid and enabled us to address problems by seeking common solutions,” said Carlos Soto, Director of the Guatemalan Moscamed Program and lead coordinator of the current project. “As an example, I would like to highlight the cooperation between Guatemala and Honduras in the process of recognition by Guatemala of the Aguan Valley fruit fly free-area in Honduras."

Eighteen countries are participating in this newly-launched regional project, namely: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.

[1] RLA5070, "Strengthening Fruit Fly Surveillance and Control Measures Using the Sterile Insect Technique in an Area Wide and Integrated Pest Management Approach for the Protection and Expansion of Horticultural Production"

[2] RLA5082, ‘Strengthening Food Security through Efficient Pest Management Schemes Implementing the Sterile Insect Technique as a Control Method’

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