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US tomato import restrictions could cause prices to rise

All tomato imports from Mexico, Israel, the Netherlands, and Canada will be inspected for signs of tomato brown rugose fruit virus. The price of tomatoes could rise on the heels of this import restriction that aims to look closer at the produce for a disease that could pose a threat to Texas crops. This was stated by Texas A&M Agrilife extension service experts.

The USDA ordered import restrictions on tomato and pepper hosts of the disease to prevent its introduction into the united states, effective November 22. Inspections and restrictions will be enforced by USDA’s animal and plant health inspection service.

The disease has been reported in China, Mexico, Italy, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. It was also reported in Germany, where it was then eradicated.

Determining the economic impact of the restrictions
Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension economist in College Station, said he and plant pathologist and director of the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory Kevin Ong are working with APHIS and other agencies to determine the economic impact of the import restrictions, especially along the Texas-Mexico border.

US ports receive 74,000 truckloads of tomatoes, or 2.96 billion pounds from Mexico annually, Ribera said. Around 52.3% of those tomatoes enter through Texas before they hit cold storage and eventually are shipped around the state and country.

Ribera said restrictions placed on tomatoes are causing delays for all produce entering through Mexico. Around 41% of those tomatoes enter through the port of entry in Pharr, while another 11 percent enter through Laredo. Pharr receives 30% of all Mexican agriculture imports into Texas.
“For some perspective, Pharr receives 12,500 trucks of produce per month,” he said. “That’s avocados and onions, leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes and others. The large majority is tomatoes, so we have trucks that are under higher scrutiny as APHIS inspects for disease, which delays the flow of trucks.”


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