- FAO says outbreak is mainly in parts of Central and North East Districts.
- CBS is spread by wind-borne spores embedded in the leaf litter carried over distances
- There are currently 164 citrus growers in Botswana
Botswana’s citrus industry is reeling from an outbreak of the worst citrus black spot (CBS) that is threatening the production capacity and fruit quality of affected citrus orchards in the country.
This is according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Plant Protection Convention. According to FAO, affected areas include parts of Central and North East Districts. “The detection of CBS in Botswana called for an emergency incursion response which is accepted internationally and in accordance to international standards,” the organisation said. It states that the management strategy for the pest has been drawn and implemented with immediate effect.
“The strategy involves conducting a delimiting survey, implementing eradication procedures, implementing internal controls and maintenance of pest free areas in Phikwe district, North West, Chobe, Ghanzi and Kgalagadi districts,” FAO said. The organisation warned that premature fruit drop caused by some infections may contribute to further economic loss. CBS can potentially be harmful in an area where it is not yet present.
“CBS is spread when wind-borne spores embed in the leaf litter under trees and are carried long distances by air currents,” FAO said. “Rain splash may move spores short distances from infected fruit and/or leaf litter,” The latest development comes at a time when the citrus industry, which is still at an infant stage, was trying to find its feet. The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) recently announced that citrus growers in Botswana “have become members of our organisation, joining over 1400 from South Africa, Eswatini and Zimbabwe”.
In a statement, the organisation’s Nicole Mirkin explained that CGA hopes to help maximise the long-term profitability and sustainability of Botswana growers by providing them with increased access to global markets, assisting them to optimise the cost-effective production of high quality fruit from their region and making industry resources available to them, including the latest research from globally recognised Citrus Research International (CRI).
She said there are currently 164 citrus growers in Botswana, with 94 percent of these being small-scale farmers that produce citrus in under 5 hectares and the remaining 6 percent falling into the category of medium to large scale farmers. “The sector currently supports just over 1000 jobs, with 75 percent of employees being female,” she said. The CEO of CGA, Justin Chadwick, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Botswana citrus growers to our association. Supporting small-scale growers is one of the main focus areas of the CGA and its Grower Development Company. We look forward to sharing our knowledge and expertise with Botswana growers.”
He said Southern African growers have become renowned for their excellent quality fruit, which is the result of a major investment in research and innovation over the past few years “and we look forward to continue expanding the CGA footprint to other African countries”. Johan van Vuuren, the Operational Manager at Selebi-Phikwe Citrus, one of the biggest citrus farms in Botswana, was quoted as saying that joining the CGA is a great achievement when it comes to unlocking opportunities for citrus growers in our country. “Our farmers and labour force face several challenges when it comes to accessing critical industry resources to improve and grow the sector,” he said.
By becoming members of the CGA, Vuuren said, Botswana citrus growers will now be able to unlock increased access to these critical resources and support structures to ensure the continued growth of the industry, farms and businesses. “We look forward to using the CGA as a platform to share and absorb knowledge from others who have more experience in this line of work,” he said. The CGA said it remains committed to representing and furthering the interests of citrus growers across Southern Africa so they remain key economic contributors in their respective countries.