The government is strengthening its regulatory framework to prevent and combat the spread of the oriental fruit fly within the country.

The Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries has issued an alert about amended control measures that have been gazetted.

Areas infested with the oriental fruit fly in SA are: Limpopo‚ Mpumalanga‚ the North West‚ Gauteng and some parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

"A removal permit will be required to move fruit from these areas to the oriental fruit fly-free areas‚" the department said.

Areas that are not infested include the Western Cape‚ Northern Cape‚ Eastern Cape‚ Free State and some parts of KwaZulu-Natal such as the Magisterial Districts of Amajuba‚ uMgungundlovu‚ uMzinyathi‚ uThukela and Zululand.

But, according to the department, "it should be noted that should the pest be detected in a farm within the pest-free areas‚ such a farm will be quarantined in terms of an official order and a removal permit will be required to move host material to a pest free area".

In terms of the existing control measures regulations‚ no person in SA is allowed to move any oriental fruit fly-infested fruit or material from an infested area to a noninfested area without authorisation by means of a removal permit; any unauthorised movement may lead to the spread of the oriental fruit fly.

The department warned: "Any transgression of these measures would be considered an offence and violators shall be subjected to penalties. It is worth noting that the removal permit will be issued only if the relevant applicant/land-user complied with the stipulated good agricultural practices as per the issued official order and the fruit or material has been found to be free of infestation‚ following an on-farm/ on-site inspection."

The department added that anyone intending to move oriental fruit fly host fruit or related material from an infested area to a noninfested area should seek guidance from the department’s inspection services staff.

According to the website FreshPlaza.com, the oriental fruit fly is a mango and citrus pest. It was first detected in East Africa in 2003‚ reaching the northern parts of SA about seven years later. By 2012 it was confirmed in Mpumalanga where much of SA’s subtropical fruit industry is based.

Overripe fruit on mango trees in home gardens are providing an ideal habitat for the fruit fly‚ the site says.