Officers from the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in Australia held a meeting in May to discuss an import risk assessment that proposes to allow lime imports from Mexico. Many growers shared their concerns that allowing imports of Mexican limes would impact profitability of their farms at a time when labor is difficult to obtain and they are still recovering from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock expressed concerns that a number of serious pests had not been adequately assessed in the government’s import risk assessment, and that some of the assumptions needed to be examined further. “Some of those pests have the potential to transmit serious plant diseases into Australia,” Hancock said. “My greatest concern is the lack of scientific inquiry around the recent outbreak of citrus canker in Mexico. Australia was only recently declared free from citrus canker following an outbreak in 2018.”
Australia Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, who is assessing an application from Mexico to import limes into the country, said Australia is obligated to give access to other countries under a free trade agreement.
“There is a technical process that we go through, and we have to understand, it’s no longer the 1950s; we actually have to trade to the world,” Littleproud was reported as saying by the North Queensland Register. “As a part of that free trade agreement, scientific and technical basis have to be made to give market access, and that’s the process that we’re going through with Mexico. They make applications to us and we work through the biosecurity risks, and work through what can or can’t happen; otherwise we’re in breach of our contract.”
Australia produces about 30,000 tons of limes each year, with 28,000 tons produced in Far North Queensland.
Citrus Australia stated that growers are already suffering from lower prices as supply is currently outstripping demand.
Mexico is the world’s largest lime producer, growing almost 3 million tons each year.
Sources: Citrus Australia and the North Queensland Register
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