Improving Safety and Quality

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Banana farmers reel under ‘butterfly’ attack Scientists at the Kerala Agricultural University have called for heightened vigil against a new and devastating pest that threatens to blight banana crops in the State.
The pest, identified as the Banana Skipper or Palm Redeye (Erionota thrax), is a chocolate-brown butterfly belonging to the family Hesperidae. It is also known as Banana Leaf Roller because its larva or caterpillar cuts the leaves at the edges and makes a series of cylindrical rolls before developing into a pupa. A heavy infestation could damage the whole banana leaf, leaving only the midrib intact.
According to Dr. Arthur Jacob, Professor and Head of the KAU’s instructional farm at Vellayani near here, the pest was reported last year from different locations in the State. He said the damage was now found to be spreading to the southern parts, especially Thiruvananthapuram, a major producer of banana. The infestation has been found to be heavy in a few banana farms at Kalliyoor, Kakkamoola and Pallichal near Vellayani.
Originally reported from Southeast Asia, the banana leaf roller pest is distributed in Northeast India, Sikkim, Nepal, the Andaman islands, Mauritius, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea. Measuring 4 to 6 cm in length, the white powder-coated caterpillar prefers banana leaves though it is occasionally found to infest coconut palms also.
Citing reports from other countries, Dr. Arthur said natural control was the best remedy. The introduction of natural parasites has been advocated to bring the damage under control.
An expert team of the KAU has advised farmers to be vigilant against the spread of the pest. The scientists have called for field scouting and periodic destruction of the rolled leaves by burning to kill the larvae. “Chemical control measures are seldom required, but if the manual removal of the leaf rolls is not possible, treatments timed to control the newly hatched larvae may be attempted with the backing of field studies,” Dr. Arthur said.

Farmers in western Japan have started shipping square-shaped watermelons to locations across the country.
They will be sold at department stores in Osaka and Tokyo and even shipped overseas.
Farmers in Zentsuuji city said they have already received 114 orders from Canada and prepared about 250 cubic watermelons for shipment.
The product was invented in Kagawa about 30 years ago. To reach the shape like this, it is put in a plastic box and as it matures, it takes on the shape of a cube. However, the square watermelons are not for eating.
The fruit is harvested before it is ripe, and is mainly for show. In Japan, they are popular as gifts for decoration. The Japanese have a tradition of giving gifts several times a year and fruits are seen as luxury items.
The watermelons go for at least $100 and are sold at high-end department stores.
Now overseas markets are buying into the square-shaped luxury item too.
Last year, the fruits were shipped to Moscow, where they were so popular they sold for around $860, USA Today reported.
In total, almost 400 cube watermelons are expected to be grown by six farmers this year.  The shipping will end around mid-July.
An official of JA Kagawa said he wants to increase the amount of production capacity and expand the supply for overseas, as reported by Buzzfeed.

The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre and partners in South Asia has developed an integrated pest management strategy to reduce the huge problem of pesticide misuse to control the eggplant fruit and shoot borer. An inexpensive, environmentally safe sex pheromone trap was a key part of the strategy. Small-scale entrepreneurs saw a business opportunity, tried out different designs and with competition the price of traps went down.

Eight years later, nine companies were making a variety of traps, the price has dropped from US $1 to US $0.10 per trap, and thousands of farmers can afford to use more traps more often. The new IPM technology reduced pesticide use in eggplant by 65–75% in Bangladesh and India and farmers increased their net income by 60%.

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ban Corbana will host the V International Banana Congress in the city of San José, Costa Rica.
The biennial event attracts some of the biggest players in the industry, ranging from marketers to academics, who Corbana promises will bring delegates up to speed on all the latest developments within the global banana sector.
The theme of the 2014 conference, The Challenges Facing Banana Markets, promises to explore in-depth topics including research and development, banana policy, the environment, logistics, marketing and social responsibility.

ff3Potato prices are expected to pick up following sharp falls during August. According to ADHB figures, spot prices paid to producers fell to £167 per tonne in the week ending 30 August, around £40 less than the same week last year and around half the price per tonne from back in May when it hit a high of £303 per tonne.
Drier weather has led to lower yields for some growers, which is likely to boost the value per tonne. Between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of this year’s crop has now been lifted. “I think there will still be plenty of British crop to go round,” said Tim Papworth, NFU potato forum chairman, “and it is good quality as there has not been so much of a problem with potato blight.”
There are also problems with overseas production that could also drive up prices. East European production is expected to drop due to earlier frosts and Israeli production is being hit by disease following the sudden heatwave.

man The UN food standards body Codex Alimentarius has agreed on new standards to protect the health of consumers worldwide. These include standards on fruit, vegetables, fish and fishery products and animal feed.

Codex also adopted codes on the prevention and reduction of ochratoxin A, a carcinogenic contaminant, in cocoa, guidance on how to avoid microbiological contamination of berries and on use of claims for food that is labeled "non-addition of sodium salts" including "no added salt" on food packages, to assist consumers in choosing a healthy diet.