Peru: Giant African snail outbreak worsens after heavy rains

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Peru: Giant African snail outbreak worsens after heavy rains

Recent heavy rainfall in parts of Peru is believed to be responsible for an outbreak of giant African snails that pose a serious threat to fruit crops. 

The molluscs have been detected in central and northern areas of the Andean country and follow months of wet weather.

Ricardo Solano Morales, a plant health specialist with phytosanitary watchdog Senasa, told Fresh Fruit Portal the giant African snail was one of the 100 most invasive pests in the world.

In South America it is present in countries like Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia, and to a lesser extent in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru, he added.

In Peru, the pest can measure around 20-30 centimeters (8-12 inches) in length.

"In general Peru doesn't have the humidity there is in Brazil to allow for aggressive propagation of the pest, our climate is tropical but drier," he said.

"However, with the El Niño phenomenon, the northern area has become more tropical and the snails have therefore had a more suitable habitat to survive."

The specialist said the first official detection of the plague had been in 2012, and explained authorities had since been working on an integrated management system.

Last year Senasa developed a control method using metaldehyde, which has proven to be highly effective. 

"We have seen such good results that we believe we could eradicate the pest in the medium-term," he said.

The snails are mainly found in urban areas with low sanitation levels and in the north of the country has been affecting banana plantations.

"In other countries the pest affects other crops, but in Peru we have only detected it in banana plantations for now," he said, adding the snails could eat any type of vegetable or fruit and even feed on human faeces.

"The snail behaves like a rodent, not distinguishing between specific crops, but rather choosing areas where it can survive," he said.

"It doesn't also eat fruits but might just be living in the undergrowth, and so cleaning the farms and their surrounding areas is fundamental."


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