Surface sterilization of Unshu oranges in Japan is replacing a requirement that citrus exported to the U.S. must be grown in areas free of citrus canker.

In a rule taking effect Nov. 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the change will make Japan’s requirements consistent with fruit grown in canker-infested areas of the U.S.

The proposal to change the regulations was published earlier this year, and the USDA said it received several comments opposing the change in the regulation.

“Six commenters, aware of (USDA’s Animal and Platnt Health Inspection Services’) previous efforts to eradicate citrus canker in Florida, asked why APHIS would risk introducing citrus canker into Florida through the importation of infected Unshu oranges from Japan when past infestations were detrimental to Florida’s citrus industry,” according to the rule, published in the Federal Register.

USDA plant health officials determined that commercially packed and disinfected fresh citrus is not an “epidemiologically significant pathway for the introduction and spread of citrus canker,” according to the rule.

In addition, the rule is now consistent with those applied to citrus from canker-infested regions in Florida, according to the USDA.

In response to some comments about the economic effect of lifting the geographic restrictions, the USDA said the Japanese Unshu orange share of the U.S. market for mandarin varieties is expected to be very small.

Unshu oranges have not been shipped to the U.S. for three years, the USDA said, and the 500 metric tons that Japan expects to ship to the U.S. would be equal to less than one-tenth of 1% of the U.S. supply of mandarin varieties.

In 2012, Japan exported 2,400 metric tons of Unshu oranges to all global markets, with a value at $4.5 million. Canada was the main destination, accounting for 83% of Japan’s exports. Exports to the U.S. are expected to be most active in November and December, according to the USDA.