'Kudos to the USDA', says California Citrus Mutual on China protocol
California citrus growers are a step closer to exporting their fruit to the Chinese mainland for the first time since access was blocked in April 2013, after a supplementary protocol agreement was reached with the country's authorities.
According to a release from the California Citrus Quality council on the California Citrus Mutual's (CCM) website, the new agreement released by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is a two-year program to be revisited for discussion after the 2014-15 season and before the 2015 season.
"We’re not quite home yet but it's a very positive step," CCM president Joel Nelsen told www.freshfruitportal.com.
The new protocol has a wide range of requirements, including skirt pruning to reduce the risk of Phytophthora infections, and only harvesting China-bound fruit from a height of 20 inches from the ground.
Extensive monitoring will also be needed, as well as preventative spraying and at least one copper application following the first rainfall.
"We've got to get the Chinese out here, hopefully sometime in June to see for themselves what we're talking about, and subsequently feel comfortable that we’re doing what we said we would do. They then would go back and issue a formal acceptance of the protocols," Nelsen said.
"I give a lot of kudos to the USDA, seriously, for being creative in their approach in being diligent in the effort.
"We were very frustrated last November after we thought an agreement had been reached, but other agencies within the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture stopped us from going forward."
He said California growers were willing to do what's necessary to maintain the Chinese market.
"I'm optimistic that once the Chinese see what we’re doing, we will have a market opening up in time for the summer Valencias, as well as next fall’s Navel orange crop."
He said the shipment of late Valencias would likely be small however, and the first Navels would probably be sent on ships on Dec. 1.