The authorities have stopped the transport of most of the fruits and vegetables from an area called the Redland in Miami-Dade County. Eight tons of the infected fruits have already been destroyed, but some growers are optioning for irradiating their product before sending it onto the markets.
State officials have quarantined 85 square miles worth of agricultural space, as the oriental fruit fly shuts down crops in South Florida after it was detected in several crops, attacking a variety of fruits and vegetables. If the invasive pest is not eradicated soon, however, Fernandez says there will be serious consequences for the fruit industry in Miami-Dade County valued at $700 million.
Tropical fruits that ream post affected due to the outbreak include dragon fruit, sapodilla, guava and passion fruit.
An invasive species, the Oriental fruit fly is established in Asia and has previously infested Hawaii, California, and Florida. The insect feeds on fruits, pierces them and lays its eggs inside it which cause a very damaging condition in the fruit. About 159 Oriental fruit flies have been caught in the area in the last few weeks and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam tells the Miami Herald it's "by far the largest outbreak we've had in this state's history".
J & C Tropicals Operations Manager Salvador Fernandez said he couldn't say how much the quarantine is likely to cost the company. "...They just don't have the cash flow to sustain these kinds of losses". That's approved by federal and state authorities, but it's costly.
"I'm extremely confident we'll get our arms around this, and hopefully, within a matter of a few months, we'll be out of the situation", Hornby says. "There's a lot of growers that will go bankrupt", he says.
However, growers of organic produce expressed concern that their status could be negated if an airborne pesticide is used on their crops and could put them out of business for the next three years.
State plant health director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant protection and quarantine noted the 75 fruit fly incursions since 1999 in Florida.