Hundreds of fruit farmers in Nwoya district are being frustrated by Mediterranean fruit flies that have invaded their acres of fruit trees.
The fruit flies cause citrus fruits to turn yellow and drop prematurely, while in mangoes they cause cracks and make them rot and fall off when mature.
There are about 5000 fruit growers in Nwoya district operating more than 6000 acres of fruit farms scattered in the sub counties of Lungulu, Koch Goma, Koch Lii, Purongo and Anaka.
Simon Peter Oryem, the Vice Chairperson of Nwoya Fruit Growers’ Cooperative Society Limited says a great portion of his mango farm has been infested by the fruit flies, leading to losses that are compounded by poor market due to COVID-19.
Oryem who has two acres of mango fruit trees, says the fruit flies attack during the flowering stage of the plant, lay their eggs in the flowers and as the ovaries form, they burrow themselves in them and grow inside the fruits.
Oryem says majority of fruit farmers are losing acres of their fruits to the pests, because they cannot afford the medicine to kill them.
“You can’t harvest your fruits if you don’t spray them thrice a season. But the medicine is expensive; three tablets range from between Shs 60,000-80,000,” Oryem said.
Oryem appeals to the government to help the fruit farmers with the medicine, so that they are not discouraged from growing fruits.
Vincent Langole, Advisor to the board of Nwoya Fruit Growers’ Cooperative Society Limited, says the fruit flies are his biggest challenge.
With 10 acres of citrus fruit trees and eight acres of mangoes, Langole says it is impossible to spray all the trees because of the expense of the pesticide.
“I am able to buy a few tablets but majority of the farmers are suffering seriously. Others have more than half of their farms destroyed by the fruit flies,” Langole said.
Grace Akello, has two acres of citrus fruits in Koch Lii sub-county. She says almost half an acre are already affected by the pests, which has affected what she had planned to do with her money, do after selling her fruits.
Phillip Mungujakisa, a Farmer Facilitator with Mildmay Consultancy Firm and Associates, says the fruit flies are common because of poor hygiene in the farms.
He says oftentimes, farmers leave the fruits that ripen and fall, to rot in the orchards, creating a conducive environment for the propagation of the fruit flies.
Mungujakisa also cautions farmers against indiscriminate use of pesticides to kill the fruit flies. He advises them to instead use traps or let nature do its job of killing the flies, saying the fruit flies have natural enemies in the ecosystem such as weaver ants that can break their cycle of multiplication.
“Orchards that have weaver ants are always unaffected because the weaver ants secrete fluids that repel the fruit flies. Besides, weaver ants also feed on the fruit flies, reducing their population,” Mugujakisa said.
“There are home-made traps but I don’t think most of the farmers are familiar with the processes. They can talk to the sub county production officers on how to prepare them,” he said.