MOROCCO – The European Commission has confirmed the interception of a shipment of pomegranates from Morocco, previously considered free of the false moth (Thaumatotibia leucotreta).

This interception has triggered extreme concern and a call for immediate investigation by AVA-ASAJA, as the false moth poses a severe phytosanitary risk capable of wreaking havoc on various crops and tree species.

The false moth’s potential entry into the European Union is not taken lightly by AVA-ASAJA, as it is known to cause an average loss of 26% in citrus production and significant damage to stone fruits, apples, pears, avocados, vines, olives, persimmons, pomegranates, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants.

The pest’s destructive capabilities are already evident in several African countries, including Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa, leading to concerns about its potential spread within Europe.

Cristóbal Aguado, the president of AVA-ASAJA, emphasized the urgent need for the European Union to initiate a thorough investigation into the extent of the threat posed by the false moth.

Given the high risk associated with the pest’s potential introduction via Moroccan exports, especially through Spain, Aguado urged EU political representatives to handle the matter differently than previous instances in South Africa and Egypt.

In September, the EU intercepted a shipment of mandarins from South Africa with False Moth. The pest was found in a shipment of lemons, as well as in a shipment of mandarins, and in three shipments of oranges.

To curtail this, the South Africa’s Western Cape Department of Agriculture has launched the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) programme. The technique is a sustainable and environmentally safe practice that does not make use of any pesticides.

In combating FCM, the practice involves rearing large numbers of male and female moths, sterilising them by exposure to radiation and then releasing them into the orchards.

When the sterile moths mate with wild moths, the eggs that are produced are not viable. This leads to a huge reduction in the FCM population over time.

AVA-ASAJA is pressing for a proactive approach, suggesting an investigative inspection in Morocco with EU inspectors.

Aguado stressed the importance of holding the Moroccan government accountable if the presence of the false moth is confirmed, emphasizing the need for a robust and preventive strategy to safeguard EU agriculture.

Expressing concern to key stakeholders, including the Director General of Health and Food Safety, Sandra Gallina, Spanish MEPs, Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas, President of the Generalitat Valenciana Carlos Mazón, and Minister of Agriculture José Luis Aguirre, AVA-ASAJA seeks urgent intervention to prevent the potential entry and spread of the false moth within the EU.

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