USDA approves import of Argentine lemons, farmers angry

The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Service (APHIS) has announced that it has come to a decision and will allow imports of lemons from Northwest Argentina.

While consumers may benefit from the import with a lower predicted price for lemons, California growers are worried. One such citrus farmer, Richard Pidduck, is the head of the U.S. Citrus Science Council and stated his primary concern was the risk of pests entering U.S. borders from infected Argentine crops. While this was his primary concern he also emphasized the risk it posed to the economic viability of citrus farming in California.

The President of the California Citrus Mutual, Joel Nelsen, also had a grim outlook on the new ruling. He said that many members of the organization were concerned about the new competition the imports would open up. He claims that farming in California is incredibly expensive with high water costs and strict regulations, while in Argentina most citrus growing is done by big corporations where labor is cheap and so are the resources.

“Our primary concern is the pest and disease issues,” Richard Pidduck, a citrus grower in Santa Paula and president of the U.S. Citrus Science Council, told the Business Times in August. “But the economic consequences could be very severe, not only in increased costs to fight pests and diseases but in loss of market share.”

APHIS has issued strict standards that imported lemons must meet however. These include site registrations, pest control, pesticide inspections and treatment, grove sanitation and the fruit must be harvested while still green within a certain window. If farmers wish to harvest at a later date their produce must be treated for fruit flies in time to meet the current standards.

“Publishing the final rule is just one of several steps that must be completed before Argentina may begin shipping lemons to the United States,” APHIS clarified.

“APHIS and Argentina’s National Plant Protection Organization (SENASA) must now finalize and sign the operational work plan, which details the conditions Argentina must meet for every U.S.-bound lemon shipment.

“Additionally, SENASA will have to collect and APHIS will have to verify six months of fruit fly trapping data. APHIS will also have to verify that packinghouses have met the safeguarding requirements outlined in the operational work plan.”

With this final ruling the new policy will be open for comment for 120 days and will take affect after 30. Its impacts om the market remain to be seen.

source: fresnobee.com

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