St Helena : BIODIVERSITY – PROTECTING ST HELENA
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Public Relations Information Office) 22.06.2013 (Article Archived on 20.07.2013)
In 1998, the inspection of fresh produce arriving on St Helena was formalised. The Biosecurity Team job is to protect the Island from new invasive species that can have a disastrous effect on St Helena’s crops and agriculture – and perhaps more importantly, on St Helena’s unique species.
– PROTECTING ST HELENA
In 1998, the inspection of
fresh produce arriving on St Helena was formalised. The Biosecurity Team job is
to protect the Island from new invasive species that can have a disastrous
effect on St Helena’s crops and agriculture – and perhaps more importantly, on
St Helena’s unique species.
Dr Jill Key, Pest Control and
Biosecurity Officer said:
“The fruits and vegetables
that are imported onto St Helena come in at two different temperatures,
enabling the products to store better. Once the containers arrive, we open the
boxes and inspect a sample of each type of vegetable and fruit.”
Some produce are lower risk than
others. Carrots, for example, are medium, as opposed to high risk peaches,
plums and clementines which have the potential to carry varied species of fruit
fly. Potatoes are also high risk to import as they can contain diseases picked
up in South Africa.
Jill said that all fresh produce
that arrives from South Africa must carry a Perishable Products Export Control
Board Certificate (PPECB), which means products come passed for export with the
same standards as used for Britain and Japan. Crops are grown by certified
farmers who abide by a strict regime of high levels of inspection for diseases.
Once samples have been collected
from the refrigerated containers (situated near the customs buildings) they are
taken to the inspection room where every single piece of fruit or vegetable in
the sample is checked.
If a quarantine pest is found, the
inspection team are faced with two options - to destroy the entire lot of that
fruit or vegetable, or go through every single item in the lot. This is the
preferred option. However, in instances where the pest cannot be seen and a
100% inspection therefore can’t be done, all of the lot has to be destroyed, at
the risk and cost of the retailer.
With the winter season produce –
mostly medium risk – it takes us about 5 hours to complete the inspection, once
the produce is landed. The product is then available to retailers.
“Retailers who import
products to the Island all have import licenses. It is extremely important to
have all the relevant documentation in order to verify fresh products imported
and to enable us to stop new pests and diseases from coming in.”
A quarantine pest was found in the
last voyage. The team found a caterpillar in a sample of the sweetcorn,
tentatively identified as the Spotted Stemborer which, isn’t something found on
“We then did a 100% inspection of
the sweetcorn and found a total of 4 cobs infested. The caterpillars have been
taken to the biocontrol unit to breed up into adults for identification.”
Jill explained that due to the
nature of the Island - although levels of invasive species are quite low -
there is a high risk to the unique biodiversity on St Helena. The Biosecurity
and Pest Control team plays a vital role in safeguarding St Helena’s