A proposed change in how some Australian citrus is treated before being shipped to the U.S. will not likely affect imports, according to the company with exclusive rights to bring in citrus from the country.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to amend the regulations governing approved phytosanitary treatments of citrus and other fresh produce from Australia, said Jim Barrett, a spokesman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.


The USDA will take comments on the proposed rule until Dec. 18, when the department will determine what protocol, if any, goes into effect, and when, Barrett said.


The proposed regulations, announced Oct. 19, are designed to stop Mediterranean fruit fly and Queensland fruit fly infestation in the U.S. But the only pest of concern to shippers of citrus, the only big-volume export commodity covered under the regulations, is the Queensland fly, said Stu Monaghan, Australian citrus manager of DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla.


At issue, Monaghan said, is how long citrus should be subjected to cold treatment, and exactly how cold that treatment should be.


Biosecurity Australia, an Australian federal agency, is recommending the USDA approve a treatment temperature of 37.4 degrees. The number of days fruit should be treated at that temperature could range from as few as 16 to as many as 22.


Whatever the outcome, U.S. importers, retailers and consumers won’t likely notice, Monaghan said.


“Changing the length of cold treatment and the temps required won’t affect the program at all,” he said. “The Aussie citrus vessels take 20 days to get here so the length of time required for being cold treated is covered. All the fruit comes containerized so temps can be adjusted to whatever is required.”