APHIS gives import nod to West African tomatoes
The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has decided to allow imports of tomatoes from member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The countries included in ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote D'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The amendment applies to the continental United States.
"As a condition of entry, tomatoes from the ECOWAS will be subject to a systems approach that includes requirements for pest exclusion at the production site, fruit fly trapping and monitoring, and procedures for packing the tomatoes," APHIS said in the Federal Register.
APHIS said the tomatoes would also be required to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the national plant protection organization of the exporting country, and an additional declaration that the tomatoes have been produced in compliance with the requirements.
"This action will allow for the importation of tomatoes from the ECOWAS into the continental United States while continuing to provide protection against the introduction of quarantine pests."
The service proposed the amendments in August 2011, soliciting comments until Oct. 3.
APHIS received four comments by that date, of which three were from the public and one was from a state department of agriculture.
One commentator opposed the proposal, saying the pest risk analysis (PRA) identified 10 quarantine pest species that could potentially accompany ECOWAS tomatoes into the U.S., highlighting those pests would pose a risk to their state's agriculture.
The service's response is that while the PRA identifies potential pests, it also identifies mitigation measures.
"The mitigation measures for tomatoes from the ECOWAS have been previously evaluated and proven effective for other commodities, and we will continuously monitor the effectiveness of those mitigations with port-of-entry inspections.
"We do not consider it necessary to prohibit the importation of a commodity based on identification of quarantine pests that could potentially accompany consignments when proven mitigations are available for this risk and will be required as a condition of importation."
Packinghouses will only be allowed to accept fruit from registered production sites in the ECOWAS. No shade trees will be allowed within 10 meters of the entry door of packinghouses and no other fruit fly host plants may be grown within 50 meters.
Once the initial approval of a production site is given by APHIS and the national plant protection organization (NPPO) of the exporting country, APHIS may monitor the sites if necessary but this will not be required. From that moment on, the NPPO will be responsible for monitoring sites monthly beginning two months before harvest until the end of the shipping season.