Long inspections of Mexican tomatoes 'unjustified', says official

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Long inspections of Mexican tomatoes 'unjustified', says official

Since November, Mexican tomatoes coming into the U.S. have been held for increased inspections, and officials from the Latin American country say it's "unjustified", writes FreightWaves.

Thus far, the U.S. has detained 43 truckloads of tomatoes at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is in response to concerns about tomato brown rugose fruit virus.

Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) Víctor Villalobos Arámbula spoke on the issue at a press conference in December.

During the conference, SADER asked the United States Department of Agriculture to verify that Mexico is free of the virus ToBRFV. Tomatoes from multiple locations - including Mexico, Canada, Israel and the Netherlands - undergo increased inspections at U.S. ports. As the number one supplier of tomatoes to the U.S., Mexico accounts for 87% of total tomato imports.

This initiative began in November after the USDA raised concerns about fruit losses from the disease.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said that while the disease is not a threat to humans, it is a concern to tomato and pepper production.

Mexico fears that slower inspection times give its tomatoes a bad reputation

Seeds for Mexican tomatoes come from the U.S., and Mexico argues that the U.S. needs to verify that the virus wasn't already present in North America.

Trucks being detained is “unjustified since we all buy the seed from the same source, which is the United States,” Arámbula said, according to news outlet Milenio.

Arámbula added that the virus controversy could give Mexican tomatoes a bad image.

“We have strong reasons to prevent shipments from being stopped at the border in the United States," he said.

Speaking to the flow of the Mexican fruit into Texas, AgriLife Extension economist Luis Ribera told KLTV that increased inspections could raise tomato prices. Laredo and Pharr in Texas are the two main entry points for Mexican tomatoes.

Ribera also explained that APHIS inspects the trucks for disease, delaying the flow of tomatoes.

When APHIS delays tomatoes, it "goes down by 10%" every day, Ribera said. “So, you want those trucks through as quickly as possible.”

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