(Jan. 3, UPDATED 4:21 p.m. CST) It took months of correspondence, but China finally lifted its ban on citrus imports from California’s Fresno County.

Joel Nelson, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, said export losses as a result of the ban were minimal. The ban ended Dec. 22.

Six peach fruit flies were discovered in traps in a mostly urban area of the county last May. State and county officials immediately established a quarantine area and launched efforts to eradicate the pest.

Heat waves in June and July accelerated the insect’s life cycles, said Carol Hafner, deputy agriculture commissioner for Fresno County. The California Department of Food and Agriculture lifted the quarantine July 28, nearly a month earlier than originally scheduled.

Hafner said the county and the state followed international protocols in eradicating the fruit flies. Still, she said, China demanded additional evidence. China’s lifting of the ban, she said, came after the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture forwarded numerous documents to the Chinese government.

Though the ban was a frustration, Hafner said it was well timed for Fresno County grower-shippers. The ban was issued at the end of the 2005-06 navel season. The lifting of the ban comes as the 2006-07 crop is moving into the peak of harvest, she said.

The USDA reports China usually imports $15 million to $20 million of Fresno County navels. China does not import valencias.