Headquarters, Nairobi - KEPHIS conducted an awareness meeting with 50 tomato and capsicum seed stakeholders aimed at notifying them on emergency measures to amend import conditions for tomato and capsicum. The amendment describes the import conditions to certify the absence of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) in the seed of pepper (Capsicum annum) and Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) in addition to mandatory testing requirements for the pest.
This comes after the virus was first reported in Israel in 2014 on sweet pepper and in Jordan in 2015. It has also been reported in Mexico, Italy, China, Turkey, USA and Germany. However, Kenya and Africa has not reported any case of the virus. The virus is reported to be very stable and can easily be spread via mechanical means and can survive for months (and possibly years) on surfaces such as greenhouse structures, plant debris, pots, tools and soil. The spread of ToBRFV across the world has been attributed to human-supported spread and trade of infected seeds or seedlings. Additionally, workers in production facilities can be the main vector, while bumble bees have been reported to transmit the virus during pollination.
At the official opening of the meeting, Mr. Simeon Kibet, GM Quality Assurance, advised the participants on the importance of protecting the country from entry of ToBRFV. “It is a threat to access of international markets and Kenya being dependent on agriculture will not only incur losses on foreign exchange, but also reduce per capita income on those who depend on agriculture therefore, compromising the living standards of the country’s citizens.”
Mr. Simeon Kibet(standing) GM for Quality Assurance, during the official opening of an awareness meeting on Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV).
The stakeholders were taken through the history of the pest, i.e. its biology, diagnostic approaches and the EU regulation 2020/1191 which outlines measures for exporting these commodities to the EU. The participants discussed the sample size of the seeds to be tested for both commercial and trial purposes, timelines and charges for testing, and the hygiene procedures to be adhered to. KEPHIS is already testing exported seeds as required by the EU using internationally recommended protocols. Importers were informed that testing of imports will commence immediately in order to prevent any introductions. It was agreed that a representative sample of all imported tomato and capsicum seed be submitted to the laboratory for testing. Phytosanitary measures to be applied in the event of any positive detections were also discussed.
Mr. George Ngundo, KEPHIS plant inspector at the Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station said that the regulation requires testing of tomato and capsicum seed regardless of the origin. “Real time and conventional PCR methods (using the primers and probes described in the ISF protocol-2020 and primers and probe of Menzel and winter) are most effective in detecting and identification.
A: Blotched with brown necrotic spots leading to complete fruit abortion of tomato fruit in Israel (2019). Source: Gentit, ANSES.
B: Fruit - yellow or brown or green spots/stripes, with rugose/wrinkled symptoms, deformed and have irregular maturation in Israel (2019), Source: Gentit, ANSES.
Symptoms of mosaic (natural infection, Israel 2019) and narrowing (experimental infection, France 2019) on tomato leaves, Source: Gentit and Visage, ANSES.