Opposition to South African Citrus Imports Into Georgia

Ernie NeffExport/Import, Georgia

grapefruit
South African

Two associations representing Georgia citrus growers expressed strong concerns about a federal proposal to remove restrictions on the ports of entry into which South African citrus may enter the United States. Removal of port restrictions would allow the importation of the citrus into all U.S. ports, including Savannah, Georgia.

The restriction removal was proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS), the same body that in April approved imports of fresh citrus into the United States from China. The Georgia Citrus Association (GCA) joined numerous others in opposing the decision to allow the Chinese imports.  

On June 1, the GCA and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA) expressed their concerns on the South African imports in letters to USDA/APHIS.

“Georgia citrus farmers are concerned USDA’s proposed change to remove port restrictions could economically devastate not only the burgeoning citrus industry in Georgia, but also negatively affect other agricultural commodities within the state, as well as those in surrounding states,” wrote Lindy Savelle, GCA president.

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Savelle stated that USDA/APHIS focused on the ability to protect domestic agriculture from the introduction of the false coddling moth at four American ports. “While the false coddling moth is of great concern, such basis by USDA does not appear to consider four other major factors,” she stated. One of the factors she cited is that several other species of pests exist in South Africa but not in the United States. She added that several of those pests cannot be lured for surveillance by South Africa “and no post-harvest treatments are available to mitigate the risk of shipping them to the U.S.”

Further, she stated, the existing four ports where shipments of South African citrus have previously been allowed “cannot be used as a comparison as to what would happen at ports in Georgia.” She noted that the climates, amount of agriculture and abundance of host materials for pests “are very different between the Northeast and Southeast.”

Finally, Savelle urged USDA/APHIS to re-evaluate the proposal. “The risk of the change will likely not be worth the reward,” she stated.

See Savelle’s full letter to USDA/APHIS here.

In its letter, GFVGA, which represents citrus growers and other fruit and vegetable growers, expressed “strong opposition” to the removal of port restrictions of citrus from South Africa. “The introduction of foreign pests has the potential to irreversibly damage the industry, the investments of citrus growers, as well as damage traditional and established fruit and vegetable crops,” wrote Charles Hall Jr., GFVGA executive director. “Georgia’s proximity to Florida’s large citrus regions is also concerning should new pests find their way into the state.”

Hall also noted that Georgia’s climate is prime habitat for potential crop pests. “South African citrus enjoys existing access to the U.S. market at ports above the 39th parallel where the introduction and spread of pests is far less likely,” he wrote. “We support maintaining access north of this demarcation thereby limiting exposure to more southern production areas.”

See the complete GFVGA letter to USDA/APHIS here.

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large