Mexican sweet limes allowed in U.S. again after rule change
Mexican sweet limes are allowed in the United States again after a change in Department of Agriculture rules that require more documentation about the health of the fruit, an agency spokeswoman told FreshFruitPortal.com.
The limes had been rejected at the border in early December because of more incidences of the fungal disease sweet orange scab being detected during visual inspections, said Alyn Kiel of the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The new rules, which went into effect Dec. 13, say that citrus that is not pre-cleared in Mexico must have a phytosanitary certificate and a declaration that it is free of symptoms of the disease. Citrus will be subject to more visual inspections as well, Kiel said.
Citrus that is pre-cleared in Mexico will undergo more inspection to reduce the number of rejections at the border, she said.
Sweet orange scab has been detected in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and the USDA wants to prevent it from spreading to citrus-producing states such as Florida, Kiel said. The fungus causes scab-like lesions on citrus rinds, can cause the fruit the drop off the tree prematurely and stunt the growth of young trees.
Kiel said APHIS is working with its counterpart agency in Mexico, SAGARPA, to reduce the amount of citrus that is symptomatic.
The disease is present in other countries, and "we're definitely paying attention in all aspects of trade, not just Mexico," Kiel said.
Lime growers in the Mexican state of Veracruz worried that rejection of the fruit would cause widespread job loss, according to local media reports. The limes are grown principally for export to the U.S.
Photo: University of Florida