Kip Hughes and his wife Rocki stand in their avacado grove that's next to their home in Bonsall on Tuesday. The couple can't sell their avacados because they are inside the "core" area of Fallbrook's Medfly quarantine. Photo Hayne Palmour IV
With the Super Bowl just days away, this would normally be a time where avocado growers enjoy a period of historically strong avocado prices. However, with a Mediterranean fruit fly infestation on their hands, this season’s harvest may actually cost local farmers, the North County Times reported.
Because of cold temperatures, state and federal agriculture officials said the pre-harvest treatment period for fruits and vegetables inside Mediterranean fruit fly quarantines in Fallbrook and Escondido has been extended up to nine days because of cold temperatures in recent weeks.
Super Bowl Sunday is the avocado industry’s biggest annual promotion because the fruit is a key ingredient in popular dips and snack dishes, Scott Scarborough of Mission produce packing house in Oxnard told the North County Times.
While agriculture officials have said a permanent Mediterranean fruit fly infestation could cost the state almost $2 billion annually, controlling the crop-destroying insect can be costly as well, with some of the financial burden resting squarely on individual farmers.
Fallbrook avocado farmer Dan Pettigrew told the North County Times that the extension would delay his harvest eight days, causing him to miss out on the two-week period of historically strong avocado prices and sales before the Super Bowl.
“Now the market is going down fast,” Pettigrew said. “I was just going to squeak out in front of it.”
Pettigrew said he does not know how much money the delay will cost him.
Farmers inside a quarantine’s core areas, or the half-mile radius around the site of each fly’s capture, stand to lose their entire crops, officials told the North County Times.
The remaining quarantined growers will suffer wide-ranging and harder-to-calculate losses related to the 60-to-70 day pesticide treatment periods required before fruit can be legally harvested or moved from properties and sold.
Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego Farm Bureau, told the North County Times that farmers inside the core areas will suffer the most dramatic financial losses. Farmers who grow fruit such as persimmons that cannot survive on trees for the 60-to-70 day treatment period could also lose much of their crops.
A 79-square-mile quarantine was established in Fallbrook in November after agriculture officials discovered flies in area traps. Escondido’s quarantine began in September after officials found flies and was expanded when other flies were discovered outside its boundaries in December. The 148-square-mile quarantine now covers most of Escondido.