Vietnam now has more opportunities to ship dragon fruit, or thanh long in Vietnamese, to some choosy markets such as the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and China’s Taiwan in the coming time as local scientists have found a new way to protect the fruit from melon fly disease, a local newspaper reported.
According to the Saigon Times Daily, the Plant Protection Department is cooperating with local scientists in a study on sterilizing male flies which harm the dragon fruit.
Male flies will be irradiated in laboratories before being released into the environment, which make them infertile, meaning they could not reproduce offspring when mating with female ones.
To ensure the success of the method, scientists will make a calculation on the number of male flies living in the environment in order to release a greater amount of infertile male flies to compete with natural ones.
Le Duc Khanh, head of the Division of Entomology under the Plant Protection Department, said that the method helps prevent dragon fruit from melon fly disease without using insecticide.
In 2013, only 2,600 tonnes of 400,000 tonnes of dragon fruit were exported to the US, Japan and RoK as those markets impose strict regulations on insecticide residues, according to Nguyen Van Ky, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruits and Vegetables Association (Vinafruit).
Vinafruit said a kilo of dragon fruit exported to those selective markets is paid several times higher than to China; however, local exporters have had difficulty meeting stringent requirements.
For instance, dragon fruit must be irradiated before delivery to the US or must undergo heat treatment before being shipped to Japan. If Japanese importers find out melon fly disease in any fruit, all batches of the product will be sent back to exporters.
Up to 90 percent of dragon fruit harvested in Vietnam each year are exported to China. However, recently, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ) said it found insecticide residues in some batches of fruit from Vietnam which are higher than allowed.
According to Vinafruit, to diversify export markets of dragon fruit, melon fly disease must be eliminated. Therefore, local farmers expect the new method from scientists would help the fruit go to more markets.