Mexico citrus industry at risk of HLB spread, government officials say
A half-million hectares planted with citrus in Mexico is under threat from the deadly illness huanglongbing, or HLB, warned Javier Trujillo Arriaga, general director of the country’s agricultural sanitary service SENASICA, according to local newspaper Cambio de Michoacán.
Also at risk are more than 100,000 families who work in the citrus industry, whose harvest is valued at about US $653.6 million annually, according to the report.
Government officials don’t know how the citrus illness, also known as “yellow dragon,” entered Mexico, Trujillo Arriaga said, but it is present in the Yucután Peninsula and along the Pacific Coast. The 42,000 hectares of citrus in Michoacán are threatened, said Salvador Torres Mora, president of the state’s committee on vegetable health, according to the newspaper.
Trujillo Arriaga said that based on how HLB has moved across the country, it likely would infect trees in Michoacán. But the government has eliminated trees with the disease in other Mexican states, he said, according to the website.
Torres Mora said that Michoacán produced 480,000 metric tons of citrus, valued at $75 million.
Mexico produces 7 million metric tons of citrus annually, and 1 million seasonal jobs are created, Trujillo Arriaga said.
Nationally, lemon trees have been most affected by HLB, which causes yellow leaves, black spots on fruit and branches, and can cause small, misshapen fruit. It is spread by insects.
Photo: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization