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SONOMA, CA -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced approval of a long-awaited protocol that permits the shipment of sweet oranges and grapefruits from Chile to the United States. The final rule was published April 7 in the Federal Register.

For the past three years, clementines have been allowed into the United States, and now U.S. produce marketers will also be receiving these new citrus items. The sweet orange harvest is expected to begin in June, and will be followed by grapefruit in August. The weather conditions in Chile so far suggest good volumes and excellent quality, according to the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, here.

"A great deal of effort by both sides was needed, but we have finally achieved a protocol that will permit Chilean exporters to ship their citrus to the U.S. market, which complements the off-season supply and provides for year- round citrus availability," Ronald Bown, chairman of the Chilean Association of Exporters, said in an April 9 statement.

The final rule will become effective May 7. During this 30-day period, the final definition of all operational procedures for the systems approach will take place.