Treasure Coast citrus growers do not want another 'invasion'

Florida growers angered over China’s exports of fresh oranges to US

After 15 years of battling an insect from China that has ravaged Florida’s citrus industry with greening, and now the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China, Treasure Coast citrus growers don’t want another invasion from China.

Still, the federal government on April 15 authorized the importation of five types of commercially produced fresh citrus fruit from China into the continental U.S. — much to the annoyance of Dan Richey, president of Riverfront Packing Co. in Vero Beach.

Richey is the most prominent citrus import-export expert on the Treasure Coast and has been a member of the Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee, appointed jointly by the U.S. secretary of agriculture and the U.S. trade representative, since 2014.

“We are fools — fools — if we think for one second that China will adhere to the regulations we’re asking them to adhere to per the World Trade Organization," Richey told TCPalm. "They won’t do it. They never do. It’s not in their nature, and we are required to trust that they’re doing it."

As an example, Richey explained rules the U.S. must follow to ship to Japan. “We have to adhere to a lot of requirements to make sure no fruit flies get in the shipments. We have to put traps in the grove, and if one fruit fly is found in a trap, none of the fruit from that grove can be shipped to Japan," he explained. “Global trade requires that you trust each other to follow protocols for safe shipments.”

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