(UPDATED COVERAGE, 3:17 p.m., Nov. 5)

Recently served Department of Justice subpoenas are probably connected to an antitrust investigation into the Australian and South African citrus industries, and it appears that exporters, not importers, are the targets.

“My impression is the subpoenas were connected with that same investigation,” said David Holzworth, general counsel for the Santiago-based Chilean Exporters Association, who said the subpoenas were served at the recent Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2009 in Anaheim, Calif.

Holzworth would not say which companies were served, or how many were served. 

A spokesperson for the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, a group of South African citrus shippers, said it "has received a request for documents from the U.S. Department of Justice as part of an ongoing investigation regarding the citrus industry. The Forum is cooperating fully with this request." The spokesperson would not say whether the forum had received a subpoena.

Joretha Geldenhuys, the forum's chief executive officer, did not return a request for comment.

Three citrus importers that were visited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2007 â€” DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.; Seald Sweet LLC, Vero Beach, Fla.; and Montreal-based Fisher Capespan LLC â€” were not among those served, according to officials from those companies.

Later in 2007, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into anticompetitive practices in the citrus industry.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said Nov. 5 that the department's anti-trust division was investigating the possibility of anti-competitive activity in the citrus industry. The spokesperson would not say whether subpoenas have been served, or whether Australia and South Africa were the countries being investigated.

Officials from several other importers and exporters did not return calls for comment.

Just because a company is subpoenaed does not mean it is the target of an investigation, Holzworth said.

UPDATED: Citrus companies subpoenaed, official says