(Feb. 14) A new source of exotic vegetables could soon be available for buyers in the wake of a proposed rule to allow imports of fresh, husked immature baby sweet corn and fresh baby carrots from the African country of Zambia.

In 2004, Zambia shipped about $1.5 million in agricultural goods to the U.S., of which 96% was coffee.

“This action would allow for the importation of Zambian baby corn and baby carrots into the U.S. while continuing to provide protection against the introduction of quarantine pests,” according to the proposed rule.

The rule was published in the Jan. 11 Federal Register. The USDA will accept comments on the proposal through March 13.

The proposed rule said the USDA’s pest risk assessment on Zambian sweet corn identified one pest of quarantine significance present in Zambia — the fungus Phomopsis jaczewskii Panasenko.

To prevent transmission of the fungus, the USDA has proposed requiring packinghouse inspections, a one-hour blast chilling and two days in cold storage before shipment to the U.S.

The rule stipulates that baby corn from Zambia must be shipped to the U.S. in shrink-wrapped plastic, microwavable trays or boil-ready plastic bags.

For baby carrots, the USDA also noted one pest of quarantine significance, the root knot nematode. The USDA will require one hour of blast chilling for baby carrots, followed by a maximum of four days in cold storage before shipment to the U.S.