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Tomato leaf miner threatens Phikwe revival

Minister of Agricultural Development & Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia has vowed that his ministry will do everything possible to intensify the fight against outbreak of tomato leaf miner which hit the eastern block of this country hardly two month ago.


Ralotsia who is also Member of Parliament for Kanye South revealed that the newly structured and revived ministry he heads will put all necessary measures from raising awareness, border control, seedling movement restrictions and so forth. This emerged this past week at Ramatlabama border gate where Ralotsia officially commissioned the digital Signage machine.


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The Ministry of Agricultural Development & Food Security in partnership with Immigration department has adopted the system in an effort to improve border control compliance. According to officials at the ministry the installation of the machine came along with raising awareness to all stakeholders including consumers, agricultural products users and traders.


“We carried out a campaign exercises in 10 districts countrywide training consumers and disseminating information on declaration of agricultural products when crossing borders,” explained Mogomotsi Moatswi a Plant protection officer at the Ministry.
Information gathered by WeekendPost also reveals that the compliance border project was financial supported by Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) at a tune of over 2 million pula.

Tomato leaf miner also known as Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) is a highly destructive insect pest to tomato plants and fruit and is also reported to infest other plants in the Solanacaeae family (potato, eggplant, etc.). The pest which is classified to be of quarantine importance was detected in Botswana early December last year, hitting areas  such as Bobirwa, Boteti, Chobe, North East, and North West. According to information from the Ministry of Agricultural development & Food Security Tomato leaf miner can cause up to 100% yield loss.


The main pathway for the Tomato leaf miner to spread from one area to another or from one country to another is through the movement of infested seedlings and tomato fruits. The Ministry, given the economic importance of Tomato leaf miner, then put in place a management strategy in which tomato and related crops importation was banned and traders deterred from moving solanaceous crops from the tomato leaf miner infested areas.


The signage machine installation project included the aspect of creating communication system of monitors which will transmit any new or relevant information to customer’s nation at boarders with regard to movement of agriculture products going in and out of the country.
WeekendPost gathered that the commissioning of the digital signage was the last lap of the project which started in April 2015 and was expected to end this year in March. According to Moatswi Botswana University of Agriculture & Natural Resources (BUANR) extended a helping hand in training inspectors resourcing them with the ability and capacity to asses crops and animals at the boarder gates


For his part the Minister Ralotsia promised an all our fight against the epidemic that had hit farmers and now threatening Botswana’s food security efforts. “These diseases and pests do not necessarily originate from Botswana while some are brought in by travelers unintentionally and some brought in intentionally by individuals,” he said during the commissioning of the bio security machine in Ramatlabama. Ralotsia observed that the pest aftermaths are felt countrywide and the Tuta absoluta seem to have spread to all parts of the country.


Therefore, he said, there was need to control and contain the pest that was already in the country urging Batswana to cooperate in ensuring that the pest was not allowed any further. According to Ralotsia there is need for everyone to be alert of this pest as it is not only a problem for the ministry. He added that already the impact of the tomato leaf miner is evident with prices now high and shelves sometime empty in retail stores. The minister emphasized that at the moment the ministry has closed down all imports of these vegetables in efforts to control and contain the pest. He expressed worry over indicated that the tomato leaf miner outbreak jeopardised international market and local distribution.


Observers note that the tomato leaf miner could in a short term crush the efforts at Selibe National Agro Processing Plant which process 32 tonnes of tomato per month to tomato source. It is believed that if the things continue the way they are soon the NAFTEC owned tomato source producing plant will run short of pure raw material. NAPRO gets majority of their raw material supply from Bobirwa region plantations, one of the areas hit by Tuta Absoluta.

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