Hawkins said the task force of agencies is focused on five strategies to battle the spread of a Medfly infestation:
- Delimiting the boundaries of the infestation with the use of increased trappings.
- Stripping fruit from trees in Mexico to kill larvae that may be feeding on mature fruit.
- Ground baits to draw Medfly adults that die from the fatal bait.
- Releasing millions of sterile male Medflies to disrupt the mating cycle.
- Regulating a quarantine in Mexico to restrict the movement of host material.
All of these efforts are taking place in Mexico and the border area. California started releasing sterile Medflies Sept. 22 and is increasing its inspection of crops in Southern California. Trappings also are being boosted to alert officials of potential threats.
If the pest moves into the U.S., a 4½ mile radius quarantine will be put in place around the detection site.
Lee Frankel, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., said the infestation is a mild inconvenience at this point for Mexican importers, but volumes will increase.
Tijuana is an important source for small wholesalers in Los Angeles, Frankel said.
The Medfly outbreak comes at a pivotal time for Mexican avocados. A USDA decision on allowing Mexican avocados into all 50 U.S. states year-round is pending. Currently, 31 states are permitted to receive the fruit during six months of the year.
The California avocado industry has strongly opposed the opening, citing the pest’s threats to avocados and other commodities.
Because California borders Mexico, it would seem the threat would increase if added deliveries of such items as Mexican avocados were to occur, said Tom Bellamore, senior vice president of the California Avocado Commission, Irvine.
The USDA said this situation will have no bearing on the pending protocol for Mexican avocados.