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Dominican Republic addressing prevalence of thrips among veg exports

Over the summer of 2017 detentions at European and US borders spiked because of the presence of thrips in shipments of Dominican Asian vegetables. 

In the La Vega region of the Dominican Republic there are approximately 40 packing houses dedicated to the export of more than 20 different Asian vegetables. More than 60 metric tons of specialty eggplants a week are exported to the US alone. 

Exporters were at wits end because they were convinced they were sending clean product after individually pressuring washing each vegetable. In case of product going to Europe they were also employing a mandatory hot water treatment designed to eliminate thrips.

In the case of US detentions, exporters have the option of paying to have the shipment treated, destroyed, or returned back to them. However, for product being transshipped to Canada through the US, this results in a loss of product because of the reduced shelf life incurred while shipment treatment is arranged. In the case of Europe treatment is not an option.

The USDA funded Exporta Calidad Program arranged to have a USDA APHIS team from Miami, Florida visit the La Vega region and train packinghouse technicians on how to identify thrips in the field before the product comes to the packinghouse and to separate out product with problems from product that is clean. 

In every “clean” shipment ready for export, the USDA APHIS inspectors were able to find at least one thrip or thrip egg which helped convince exporters on the need to take actions themselves to resolve the problem. 

The USDA supported Program is now in the process of helping packinghouses install special pest inspection stations with appropriate lighting and equipment to find small pests such as thrips that are particularly adept at hiding themselves on fruits and vegetables with uneven surfaces such as bitter melon and under the stem caps of eggplants.

The USDA APHIS team also recommended greater protection for the container loading area to avoid the entrance of opportunistic insects into the containers, particularly during preferred night time loading times when lights attract insects.

Detentions because of thrips have dropped over the last month. The Exporta Calidad Program is also working jointly with packing houses to help their associated farmers adopt integrated pest management measures to keep thrips levels down on the farm before they become a problem at the packing house.

For more information:
Brian Rudert 
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