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Rabat – The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a report assessing the risk of pests in Morocco’s eggplant exports ahead of a potential partnership between the US and Morocco.
In 2019. the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researched the presence of harmful, invasive pests from commercially produced eggplants imported from Morocco, determining six species were a risk to the US ecosystem.
The Mediterranean fruit fly and five species of moth pose a unique risk to Morocco’s eggplant exports to the US as they are internal feeding insects. Out of the 20 insects identified in the report, the APHIS considered these insects to be most harmful as they are not easily identifiable during the harvest.
Additionally, each species lays eggs inside the eggplant which renders the fruit non-consumable.
Moroccan suppliers will take several risk mitigation factors before exporting to the US. Brushing the eggplants and removing the leaves will reduce the chances of infestation, however, the high risk remains for some of the pests already present in the US.
The report deemed the Mediterranean fruit fly to be “one of the worst fruit pests” as it can travel up to 20 kilometers and damage fruit by “egg-laying, internal larval feeding, and subsequent rotting due to microorganisms.”
Currently, the US imports the majority of its eggplants from Mexico, Honduras, and Canada for a combined 78,500 metric tons in 2019. Morocco exported most of its eggplants to Mauritania, Spain, and France for a total of 4,010 metric tons in 2020.
The US importation of eggplants represents 15.5% of the global eggplant trade.
Morocco doubled its eggplant exports from 2019-2020 meaning a trade deal with the US could prove to be extremely lucrative.
The USDA will conduct another study on these specific insects before confirming Morocco as a new eggplant supplier to the US.