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Mediterranean fruit fly detected in Puerto Rico

Staff writer |
Puerto Rico is readying control and eradication protocols after the first detection of the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests.

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Hector Cordero, president of the Puerto Rico Farmers Association, told Efe that the initiative is a response to the appearance in the southwestern municipality of Cabo Rojo of two Mediterranean flies, long present in the nearby Dominican Republic.

The Puerto Rico government is receiving advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service on control and eradication measures.

"The goal is to prevent the impact of pests such as the coffee rust or the banana black sigatoka that in the 1990s caused damage to the Puerto Rican agriculture," Cordero said, adding that the lack of timely action in the face of the previous pests may have been a factor in their spread.

The Mediterranean fruit fly, or Certitis capitata, harms produce but does not represent a threat to humans.

A female fly lays roughly 10 eggs on a piece of fruit. After a few days, larvae emerge and begin eating the fruit's flesh, causing it to soften and turn rotten.

Francisco Aponte, Puerto Rico's deputy agriculture secretary, said USDA officials detected the flies during an inspection last month.

The pest can damage tomato, mango, avocado, coffee, papaya and cantaloupe, all of which are cultivated in Puerto Rico, Aponte said.

Despite its name, the Mediterranean fruit fly originated in West Africa, from where it has spread around the world. The fly reached the Americas early in the 20th century.

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