(UPDATED COVERAGE, Dec. 14) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved new regulations that should restore lime and other citrus imports from Mexico to normal levels.
Under terms of the regulations, which went into effect Dec. 13, boxes of Mexican citrus thought to be at risk of sweet orange scab must be accompanied with a phytosanitary certificate stating they have not shown symptoms of the pest, said Alyn Kiel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agricultureâs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Shipments will be allowed into all U.S. states, Kiel said. Sweet orange scab has been detected in Texas but not in California, Florida and Arizona.
The USDA enacted the new regulations after APHIS began rejecting shipments of Mexican limes the week of Dec. 6, a move that surprised importers.
Inspectors rejected loads because they feared they were contaminated by sweet orange scab, which is on the agencyâs list of actionable pests but until now has not been a target for quarantine because its effects are cosmetic.
Kiel said limes were given extra scrutiny recently because of increased reports of sweet orange scab.
Ultimately, John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, Mission, would like to see sweet orange scab removed from the list of actionable pests.
But for now, he was pleased with the new regulations.
âI appreciate APHISâs expeditious effort to resolve this,â he said. âI think itâs a reasonable resolution.â
Because the problem was resolved quickly, McClung said he doesnât think Mexican shippers or U.S. importers will suffer significant losses from the interruption in shipments.
Before the new regulations were announced, Mexican shippers were set to boycott shipping limes to the U.S., McClung said.
In November, Texas citrus shippers voluntarily halted shipments to other citrus producing states to investigate whether sweet orange scab poses a threat to them.
(Note on clarification: The second paragraph of this story was changed to reflect the proper terms of the regulations. Boxes of citrus are not required to be stamped, as an earlier version of the story stated. The third paragraph was rewritten to avoid misinterpretation.)