(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 7) The European grapevine moth has been eradicated in four California counties, bringing an end there to restrictions on exports of stone fruit and table grapes to Mexico.
Fresno, Mendocino, Merced and San Joaquin counties are now free of the moth, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We no longer have to identify fruit as having come out of a quarantined area,” said Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League. “You don’t need inspections before fruit can leave. It doesn’t change a whole lot in the ability to ship, but it does in the efficiency and cost of shipping.”
The move will save growers about $10 million annually in quarantine-related costs, Rebecca Blue, USDA deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a news release. The department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service declared eradication in the counties June 5 after two years of surveillance yielded no new detections.
The moth was first detected in California in 2009. Ironically, it was stone fruit — not the primary host for the grapevine moth — that suffered most when infestation came to the Central Valley.
“The moth was first discovered prior to grape harvest, early enough to set up a quarantine structure,” Bedwell said. “But it did disrupt early shipments of tree fruit, and it was doubly frustrating for stone fruit growers to deal with that delay. That’s when most of the disruption and fiscal impact took place.”
Once the quarantine was set up, disruptions were minimal.
“Last year’s season went fairly smoothly, but there is no such thing as a good quarantine and we’re please to see this one has been lifted,” Bedwell said.
Traps will continue in quarantine zones. Bedwell said the trade association plans to lobby for continued funding of eradication programs.
“When you look at the costs of the protocol and the related costs of treatment, the numbers add up very quickly,” he said. “These invasive species programs we have at the state and federal levels are so important. Between the state budget and the farm bill, we’re going to make sure the proper amount of resources is devoted to prevention of invasive species.”
Quarantines for the moth remain in effect in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Nevada counties. Much of the effect there is on wine grapes.
“We had a report that only about 60 moths were trapped in Napa this year, and most of those came from one property,” Bedwell said. “Two years ago, literally thousands of moths were being trapped there, and last year less than 200. We continue to make strides. It’s important to keep efforts up so this can be eradicated in Napa as well within a couple years.”
Soon after the moth was found in California, Mexico began requiring additional treatments on exports of fresh table grapes and stone fruit. Those restrictions have been lifted on counties declared free of the pest, according to the USDA.
Mexico is one of the top five export markets for U.S. table grapes and the third largest importer of U.S. fresh stone fruit. Last year, California exported 3.4 million cartons of fresh stone fruit, valued at $45 million, and 5.7 million boxes of fresh table grapes, worth $102.1 million, to Mexico.
Outreach, surveys, grower-led treatments and quarantine enforcements cost about $10 million annually since 2009.