(Nov. 11) EXETER, Calif. — Citrus shippers exhaled after South Korea agreed to accept California navel shipments from the state’s top producing counties this season.

Unfortunately, the fruit has been approved to ship under a trade protocol that will cost the citrus industry thousands of dollars and could hinder the flow of fruit.

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said the industry has mixed feelings about accepting the deal.

Nelsen said South Korea requires specific cultural practices, a sampling protocol and an incubation process on citrus imports. Exports were halted out of Fresno and Tulare counties in April after South Korea reportedly found Septoria citri, a citrus disease, on California navels.

Shipments to South Korea reached almost 25% of California’s navel export sales during the 2003-04 season.

The added requirements are frustrating to the citrus industry because the issue lacked scientific evidence, Nelsen said.

On the other hand, Mike Wootton, vice president of corporate affairs for Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, said, “It’s a sigh of relief to get back into the (South) Korean market.”

SAMPLES

Under the protocol, citrus grown in Fresno and Tulare counties must be sampled and incubated for 20 days before it can be approved for export. Samples are taken from blocks, which range from 10 to 100 acres, Wootton said.

Once a block is approved, it is opened up for the season.

Officials agreed on requirements Nov. 11, and shipments are likely to begin in mid-December after the first sample is tested.

South Korea is expected to ratify the agreement the next week, Wootton said Nov. 11, and the agreement would go into affect 20 days from that point.


The other requirement shippers had to approve is to have a number of South Korean inspectors for several weeks, Wootton said.