eFume: An alternative to methyl bromide issues

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eFume: An alternative to methyl bromide issues

A decades-old fumigant formulation is on course to resolve a challenge that has plagued Chilean grape exporters since they started shipping to the U.S. in the 1950s.

This coming season, commercial testing is due to begin at the Holt Logistics/Gloucester Marine Terminal for ethyl formate as an alternative fumigant to methyl bromide to disinfest Chilean grapes of the European Grapevine Moth (lobesia botrana or EGVM), pending final sign off by EPA and USDA. The ethyl formate formulation is sold under the brand name eFume by Draslovka Services Group, based in Melbourne, Australia. 

Gloucester Terminal is a produce industry bastion on the Delaware River in Gloucester City, NJ.

Miriam Borja, senior business development manager for Western Fumigation, based in Parsippany, NJ, has worked with the Chilean grape industry for decades to address the use of methyl bromide to mitigate the Chilean false red mite, Brevipalpus chilensis, and EGVM.

Chilean grape exporters and their allies, certainly including Western Fumigation, have long worked with EPA and USDA to find a satisfactory systems approach for table grapes produced in areas in which the false red mite and EGVM are either absent or at a low prevalence to avoid fumigation when fruit arrives in U.S. ports. That approach has long been tied up in red tape, although hope perseveres for a solution.

Related articles: Systems Approach for Chilean table grape imports into U.S. moving forward

In the meantime, Borja on Aug. 29 tells FreshFruitPortal.com that Western Fumigation became aware of the possible ethyl formate alternative over a decade ago. A well-known Chilean industry scientist brought this to the attention of Western Fumigation. Linde, a German chemical company, derived the formula in the 1950s. The Chilean scientist found that it not only was an effective fumigant but that it had additional favorable qualities. Unlike methyl bromide, eFume can gain approval as an organic application, which would open new marketing doors for the Chilean grape industry.

Over the past ten years, Borja worked with U.S. government and international technical industry sources to bring ethyl formate into use again. The prior EPA registration which lapsed in the 1980’s was insufficient to automatically reinstate the product today. Finally, with Draslovka, progress on the EPA registration was made.

Borja says that Western Fumigation is poised to begin using eFume when Chilean grapes start arriving in Philadelphia this season. Very limited eFume applications will be commercially applied in 2023-24.

According to Wikipedia, ethyl formate is an ester formed when ethanol (an alcohol) reacts with formic acid (a carboxylic acid).  Ethyl formate is a colorless liquid that has the characteristic smell of rum and is also partially responsible for the flavor of raspberries. It occurs naturally in the body of ants and in the stingers of bees.

Borja to retire!

Christina Lista & Miriam Borja.

Miriam Borja tells FreshFruitPortal.com that she’s waited years to retire because she first wanted to address concerns around methyl bromide.

Satisfied that eFume, and eventually the upcoming systems approach, will boost the Chilean grape industry, Borja has announced her retirement effective at the end of 2023.

Currently working into Borja’s role is Christina Lista. Lista entered this industry as an intern for the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce (CACC) in 2014. As Ricardo Maldonado stepped down as executive director of the CACC in 2015, Lista became executive director. She has now joined the staff of Western Fumigation; with the understanding that she will maintain her role at the CACC.  Borja explains that Lista’s industry role is so vital at the CACC that Western wants to support her in her former position.

Borja and Lista are working full-time together through the fall. Borja will step back and then be formally done with her long career in the new year. And Lista will carry the banner to continue Western Fumigation’s advocacy role on behalf of the industry. 

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