by BETTER FARMING STAFF
One of the world’s most destructive grain pests has made its way undetected in imports that have passed through Canada, says a Canadian Food Inspection Agency official.
“It’s a concern,” says Brian Rex, a grains and field crops specialist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency of the khapra beetle. “It is considered to be one of the most destructive pests on grain and grain products.”
The beetle, thought to have originated in India and be well established in Africa, the Mediterranean and South East Asia, is a quarantine pest in Canada and many other countries. It prefers grain and cereals such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize and rice, as well as flour, malt and noodles. It can go for long periods without food and is resistant to insecticides. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, grain damage “often reaches 30 per cent; up to 70 per cent damage has been reported.”
Earlier this year, U.S. custom officials found the beetle in a cargo container of grain at the Detroit border crossing. Rex says the container was transported through Canada but it was never physically imported into this country or opened. Yet there have been other instances when the beetle was found in products that had been imported first to Canada before being re-exported to the United States, he says.
Chances of the beetle surviving out of doors in Canada are low, Rex says. But if it somehow made its way into warehouse or storage, “it could survive in there.”
Interceptions and detections of the beetle are on the rise in imports to Canada, Rex says. Until two years ago, only two interceptions had taken place in a decade. In 2010 there were two interceptions. This year, “I believe there are at least three confirmed detections on product that has been imported into Canada,” Rex says.
According to an email from a CFIA media relations spokesperson, three of the five detections in the last two years were in imports of cereal grain from India. It was also found in two shipments of si-si nuts (a nut from the head of a Middle Eastern thistle) — one from Iraq and another from an unknown country of origin.
Those numbers are tiny compared to the number of interceptions of the pest in the United States. Within the first four months of this year U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists made 44 interceptions. That number exceeded that country’s total number of interceptions in 2010.
An April news release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection credits the increase in interceptions to new training procedures to help inspectors identify signs of the beetle’s presence.
In July, the United States restricted importation of rice from countries infested with the beetle, prohibiting non-commercial shipments and requiring commercial shipments to produce a certificate that the insect is not in the shipment.
No specific certificate is required for shipments to Canada but any shipment may be subject to inspection. If a khapra beetle is found, “we would move on action on that shipment, either have it (the shipment) destroyed or have the importer return it to the country of origin,” Rex says. BF