By Don Schrack

The Packer

In a move aimed at preventing a light brown apple moth invasion, Chuck Strahl, Canada's minister of agriculture and agrifood, has ordered restrictions on produce and other products imported from California to British Columbia.

The restrictions, which went into effect June 25, raised concerns among California grower-shippers.

"It's going to be expensive," says Jeff Olsen, a salesman for The Chuck Olsen Co. in Visalia, Calif.

The restrictions include a pre-shipment inspection and a secondary phytosanitary declaration for produce.

"The big question is whether we have the staff to do the extra inspections," says Tony Fazio, president of Fazio Marketing Inc. in Fresno, Calif.

Canada is not Fazio Marketing?s top export customer, but it?s among the top five, he said.

Having sufficient inspectors to handle the additional workload was also cause for concern at county agriculture commissioners' offices in the San Joaquin Valley.

"I seem to recall that we used to do inspections on table grapes to British Columbia and the workload was significant," says Carol Hafner, deputy agricultural commissioner for Fresno County.

A light brown apple moth was discovered in late February for the first time in North America. As of June 13, more than 4,100 apple moths have been trapped in and around the San Francisco Bay area.

The small, nondescript moth has a host range of more than 250 plants, including stone fruit, grapes and citrus. It is native to Australia.

The Canadian restrictions affect all produce, plants and flowers. Shipments from the San Francisco Bay area face more stringent conditions than those imposed on exports from counties where there have been no apple moth trappings.

"It's going to be a big regulatory nightmare," says Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County's agriculture commissioner. "We've shipped product freely between California and Canada, and this would require a federal phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration alluding to a variety of things including trapping and inspections."

Lauritzen says the additional costs to grower-shippers would be relatively minor. Monterey County charges a standard inspection fee of $28.

Tim Chelling, vice president of communications for Western Growers in Irvine, Calif., says there might be some consolation in Canada's directives.

"If this serves as a wake up call for the Legislature to provide more funding for agriculture, then it may turn out to be a positive," he says.

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