Chile: Systems approach for grapes destined to the USA advances

The Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) has been working with the authorities of the Agricultural Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-APHIS) and the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG ( ASOEX) for many years to achieve the approval and implementation of the systems approach mechanism for Chilean table grapes that are exported to the United States. It's been a bumpy road.

Ronald Bown, the president of ASOEX, said: "In 2002 the SAG proposed the USDA-APHIS working on a systems approach for table grape to replace methyl bromide. In this framework, during the 2002-2003 season they conducted a pilot program to determine if this system could be viable for the mitigation of the pests that concern the US Department of Agriculture. In 2006, we resubmitted the petition to APHIS for the approval of a systems approach for our fresh grapes, conducting a second pilot program in the 2006/2007 season. Following an APHIS evaluation, we drafted a proposed rule, which was published for public comment in the Federal Register on August 27, 2008."

However, all these advances were interrupted by the detection of the Lobesia botrana plague in Chile in April 2008. "The detection of the Lobesia botrana halted the progress made in the implementation of the inspection system," Astete said.

Since then the SAG, together with the private sector, represented by ASOEX and the Foundation for Fruit Development (FDF), have continued working to achieve the approval of the systems approach as an option to methyl bromide.

An opportunity for Atacama and other regions of northern Chile
One fact that stands out in this long process is related to the disposition that the USDA-APHIS has expressed, indicating that it is willing to continue evaluating the implementation of a systems approach for table grapes.

In January of this year, personnel from APHIS visited Chile and verified that there were areas where a systems approach could be applied, given that the Lobesia botrana has been controlled.

"Setting a date to implement the systems approach is risky, however, we can say that there has been a positive change after APHIS visited the country in January, which makes us feel confident that we'll reach an agreement. APHIS still has to conduct an administrative process, so it's very difficult to forecast dates. The important thing is that the last letter we received from APHIS (August), indicates that, due to the low levels of catch they recorded in their last visit to Chile (January 2018), the Atacama Region, and other parts of northern Chile, could qualify for a systems approach for table grapes. Let's not forget that APHIS visited the area of Atacama to see the incidence of the plague in this region," he said..

In the same letter, APHIS stated that it was analyzing the Systems Approach proposal made by the SAG in December 2017, which takes into account the regions of Atacama, Coquimbo, and Valparaíso, as they have a low incidence of Lobesia botrana.

The APHIS also stated that it was about to implement modifications in its regulatory process, which would be simplified (called Q56) to streamline the analysis and implementation of standards that previously took many years to be approved and implemented. "We are optimistic thanks to this news, and other signals. We hope they authorize this system for table grapes in the short or medium term," Astete said.

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