U.S. opens doors to Mexican figs
The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the decision today (March 30) on the government's Federal Register website, following the publication of a pest list and risk management document (RMD) in June last year and subsequent public comment period.
The figs may only be imported to the continental U.S. in commercial consignments and must be irradiated with a minimum absorption dose of 150Gy.
The organization said it had received three comments by the end of the 60-day comment period, from an exporter, an organization of state plant regulatory agencies, and a state department of agriculture.
The pest list identified six quarantine pests that were likely to follow the pathway of fresh figs imported from Mexico into the continental U.S.: Anastrepha fraterculus, A. ludens, A. serpentina, Ceratitis capitata, Maconellicoccus hirsutus, and Nipaecoccus viridis.
Two commenters acknowledged the mitigation measures described in the RMD would likely be enough to mitigate the risks of all six quarantine pests, but requested that figs from Mexico not be distributed in Florida due to the risk of an accidental or incidental introduction of quarantine pests into the state
However, APHIS said the requirement for the fruit to receive irradiation treatment provided effective safeguards, and in addition each consignment would be subject to inspection at the U.S. port of entry and must be found free of all quarantine pests.
"We are confident that these requirements will adequately mitigate the risks associated with the importation of fresh figs from Mexico," the entity said.
One commenter asked what phytosanitary measures would apply to figs exported from fruit fly-free areas of Mexico and whether those treatments will negate the figs' organic status.
APHIS said that figs produced in fruit fly-free areas of Mexico would be eligible for importation into the United States without treatment for fruit flies, but the figs would be subject to the labeling, certification, and safeguarding requirements and would have to be inspected and found free of M. hirsutus and N. viridis.