Invasive fruit flies detrimental to Kingdom’s mango exports

A mango farm manager inspects fruit at a grove in Preah Sihanouk province in 2014.
A mango farm manager inspects fruit at a grove in Preah Sihanouk province in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Cambodia’s mango shipments have been routinely blocked before making it to the international market, with the Ministry of Agriculture claiming the mangoes are not of a high enough quality to meet the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements necessary to ship outside of the Kingdom.

According to Hean Vanhan, director general at the General Directorate of Agriculture, the main obstacle for Cambodian mangoes making it to the international market has been the prevalence of fruit flies, which infest prospective shipments of the produce.

 

“It is not a matter of the quality of our mango – the main obstacle to the market is the fruit fly, which blocks our mango exports and makes it difficult to achieve SPS certification,” he said, adding that the SPS certificate could only be granted to shipments of mangoes devoid of “injurious pests”.

Cambodia’s annual mango production is about 1 million tonnes, Vanhan said, but the Kingdom will continue to be cut off from surrounding markets until farmers manage to rid their produce of invasive flies.

 

“This fly is a species that spread into Cambodia through fruit imports, and now we need to strengthen our control of imports at the border in order to prevent other pests like these flies from entering the country,” he said. “Farmers will face higher costs of production now, since they will have to use new techniques in order to prevent these flies from infesting their fruit.”

In Chayvan, president of Kampong Speu Mangoes Association, said that while the fruit fly has been a problem for mango farmers in the past, most have established methods that ensure there are few to no flies in their mango shipments.

The real reason Cambodia’s mangoes are unable to reach the international market, he said, is because they are often blocked for perceived hygiene-related issues, and he urged the Ministry of Agriculture to hasten its administration of SPS certificates to encourage neighbouring countries to buy Cambodian produce.

“The fruit fly is not our main concern when it comes to being blocked from the international market,” he said, adding that most mango shipments that had been prepared to leave Cambodia had met the SPS requirements. “Our main issue is that the SPS certification is too hard to get from the ministry, and so we have no access to ship to surrounding countries.”

He added that Japan and Korea required advanced farming techniques that Cambodia could not yet meet, but that China and other neighbouring countries would be prime markets for the Kingdom’s mangoes to enter, if they were granted SPS certification.

But according to Vanhan, the SPS certification should not be easily awarded in order to ensure quality control.

“Every country is concerned about the fruit fly, and we need to show them their products are safe from it,” he said. “If our international customers were to find fruit flies or bacteria in the shipments from Cambodia, we would lose the international market’s confidence in all of our agricultural produce.”