We are sad to advise industry that there is a growing problem worldwide with the “Khapra Beetle” (Trogoderma granarium). It’s a tiny little hairy larva and, as an adult, it is a reddish-brown oval beetle.
It’s a tiny bug. But it’s a big destroyer of grains and oilseeds. It also infests more than 96 different commodities.
The big risk countries are in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Unfortunately, Khapra Beetle is also an excellent and opportunistic hitchhiker that particularly likes to grab a ride in cargo. So it can pop up around the world. It particularly likes hot climates it’s also very tolerant of dry conditions.
The bug infests cargo and it can chomp through commercial plastic packaging. It has been seen it in a wide range of cargoes. Owing to a quirk of its biology, it can lay dormant for literally years before emerging when the time is right to infest and destroy agri-products.
The dormancy period also means that there’s no “Khapra season” – the bug poses a threat every day, of every month, of every year.
Because it is tiny, it is difficult to detect. Anyone carrying out a quick and superficial cleanliness check of a container might not notice the presence of the Khapra Beetle. Infections are usually discovered when someone spots the cast of larval skins.
Treatment and responses
There are, potentially, a variety of treatment options used around the world (which may or may not be allowed here in Australia) and these include fumigation with chemicals such as methyl bromide, phosphine, possibly sulfuryl fluoride, ethyl formate and biogas. Other treatments include radiation and heat.
Heat appears to be a particularly effective. A treatment of two hours at 60 degrees Celsius has been shown to produce near complete mortality in all life stages of the Khapra Beetle.
Certification and declarations
Meanwhile, as anyone in the container shipping industry would know, certificates and declarations accompany ocean shipping containers.
In relation to pest control declarations, the global shipping industry has in recent years submitted comments to the International Maritime Organization. That document explains that if all empty and packed export containers were to be certified clean by third party certifiers at a conservative cost of US$100 per container then the annual costs to the container industry could amount to approximately $20 billion.
As the submission to the IMO establishes, the global shipping industry is opposed to blunt proposals that are not based on published risk analysis. The global shipping bodies have expressed concerns that proposals for pest-free certificates would:
- spread finite resources thinly across the globe;
- likely have no discernible effect in terms of reducing pest contamination risk;
- present at a huge cost; and
- result in unenforceable bureaucratic procedures.
“New Pest Response Guidelines“, US Department of Agriculture
Submission to the International Maritime Organization: “Comments on FAO/IPPC proposal for inclusion of Cleanliness among the items to check in inspection programmes for CTUs” July 2019, Submitted by ICS, BIMCO, ICHCA, IICL and WSC.