JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa has detected its first outbreak of Tomato Leaf Miner, a pest originally from South America which can ruin tomato and potato crops, the department of agriculture said on Friday.
The highly destructive insect feeds on leaves, stems and fruits of plants and can cause widespread crop infection.
“This pest is disastrous particularly for tomato production and food security in general,” the agriculture department said in a statement.
“The biggest challenge with this pest is that it can develop resistance to chemicals within a single season.”
Eradication of the insect is impossible but the threat could be contained and the tomato and potato industries were working with the government to come up with a plan of action, the department said.
Infestations were discovered on a tomato farm in eastern South Africa, in the Kruger National Park and at a border post with neighboring Mozambique.
Tomato Leaf Miner spread from South America to Europe in 2006 and has since moved southward through Africa and Asia. It has been reported in Kenya and Tanzania and was detected in Zambia in September.
South Africa has about 55,000 hectares of commercial potato crop and produces over 200 million 10 kg bags annually, according to industry data. Tomato farmers produce about 600,000 tons annually, according to the industry web site.
Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Joe Brock