(June 14) Facing significant delays in border crossings, importers of Mexican grapes and the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas successfully lobbied for more federal inspectors in Nogales, Ariz., as the season peaked in late May and early June.

All Sonora grapes must be inspected by the Arizona Department of Agriculture’s Federal-State Inspection Service, but the FPAA feared a shortage of inspectors would force long delays, adversely affecting the Sonora grape crop. An estimated 16 million 18-pound cartons will be imported this season, according to importers.

“The Agriculture Marketing Services of USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) went beyond the call of duty to diffuse what could have been an economic crisis,” said Chris Ciruli, chairman-elect for the FPAA, Nogales, in a June 13 news release.

“Their leadership and rapid response time helped the industry catch up from delayed inspections, and grape shippers are back to operating with little or no backlogs in inspections,” Ciruli said in the release.

The FPAA coordinated with USDA and Arizona Department of Agriculture’s inspection service to increase the number of inspectors in May from three to 11. Then, during the first week of June, it became apparent that even more inspectors were needed, and the USDA mobilized an additional seven federal inspectors to Nogales.