The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) announced it is authorizing the importation of cold-treated fresh citrus from South Africa into all U.S. ports of entry. Previously, APHIS restricted the entry of cold-treated citrus fruit from South Africa to four U.S. ports that have cold-treatment facilities. APHIS scientists determined that citrus fruit from South Africa, which is cold treated in transit, can safely enter all U.S. ports of entry without increasing the risk of introducing the false codling moth or other pests of concern.
However, Florida Citrus Packers Executive Vice President Peter Chaires said the association “is disappointed in the risk assessment conducted by USDA. We continue to believe that the risk is far greater than they have identified. Florida agriculture, and in particular citrus, has suffered greatly from the introduction of pest and disease from outside our borders. It makes little sense to increase the risk of new introductions through Florida and southern ports, when imported fruits, vegetables and other high-risk produce can gain access to the American market through northern ports while minimizing the risk to domestic producers.”
“The economic well-being of the ports should never take precedence over protecting domestic producers,” Chaires added. “Port inspectors do the best job possible with their limited resources, but can only inspect a small percentage of the inbound product. FDACS’ (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) Division of Plant Industry (DPI) has done an excellent job of documenting the risk that this presents. It is most unfortunate that DPI’s excellent work has not impacted federal policy decisions to the benefit of the Florida producer.”
APHIS stated that its decision is based on the findings of a commodity import evaluation document (CIED) that the agency made available to the public for review and comment through a previous notice. APHIS also conducted intensive inspections for false codling moth on citrus from South Africa over a two-year period at the four previously authorized ports in Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Houston, Texas. During that time, more than 2,000 shipments of citrus were imported with no detections of live false codling moth.
This action is not expected to significantly increase the volume of citrus imports from South Africa, USDA stated.
The USDA notice, pest list, CIED, economic evaluation assessment and the comments received can be seen here.