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U.S. opens doors for citrus imports from Uruguay

One more foreign country is joining the ranks of those who contribute to the summer citrus demand in North America.

On July 10, the Federal Register; The Daily Journal of the United States Government published an article titled Importation of Fresh Citrus Fruit From Uruguay, Including Citrus: A Rule by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The Final Rule action read: We are amending the fruits and vegetables regulations to allow the importation of several varieties of fresh citrus fruit, as well as Citrushybrids and the Citrus-related genus Fortunella, from Uruguay into the continental United States.

As a condition of entry, the fruit will have to be produced in accordance with a systems approach that includes requirements for importation in commercial consignments, pest monitoring and pest control practices, grove sanitation and packinghouse procedures designed to exclude the quarantine pests, and treatment.

The fruit also will have to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the national plant protection organization of Uruguay with an additional declaration confirming that the fruit is free from all pests of quarantine concern and has been produced in accordance with the systems approach. These actions will allow for the importation of fresh citrus fruit, including Citrus hybrids and the Citrus-related genus Fortunella, from Uruguay while continuing to protect the United States against the introduction of plant pests.

On July 15, Crowley Maritime Corporation, headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, issued a press notice to its customers advising them of the new ruling. It stated, “The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services has issued a final rule that, effective August, 9, it will allow the importation of several varieties of fresh citrus fruit, as well as citrus hybrids and the citrus-related genus Fortunella, from Uruguay into the continental United States. Included are sweet oranges, lemons, four species of mandarins and two types of kumquats.”

Crowley’s notice added that it would send out a notification once the Import Regulations are posted on the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website, Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements, commonly referred to as APHIS FAVIR.

The ruling will become effective August 9, 2014, when certain coordination and logistics tasks are coordinated by both countries.

Officials in Uruguay are pleased with the decision. An article in MercoPress on July 11, titled “After twenty years of negotiations US opens its market to Uruguayan citrus” noted that an announcement was made the day the ruling was published by APHIS, Julissa Reynoso, U.S. Ambassador to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, made the announcement as she was flanked by Uruguay’s Foreign affairs and Agriculture and livestock ministers Luis Almagro and Tabare Aguerre respectively.

“This is a high impact decision for the Uruguayan economy and a further stride in the close trade relations between two countries that enjoy very close bilateral links,” the MercoPress quoted her as saying.

It is estimated that the agreement will enable Uruguay to export annually 20 million dollars of different citrus varieties benefiting 15,000 workers in the industry plus many thousands more indirectly.

“This is a very important chapter in the bilateral trade relation and an excellent example of what can be achieved if we work jointly and are committed to expand our commerce relations,” Ambassador Reynoso added.

Last February, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had proposed amendments to regulations so as to allow citrus imports from Uruguay. The new ruling is the result of these amendments.

In its statement, APHIS stated that while the entry of fresh citrus from this new source may displace production in the U.S. as well as imports from foreign sources like Mexico, Chile, Spain and others, a sizeable displacement of fresh citrus from any source with an existing market share is unlikely given increases in domestic consumption.

APHIS adds that Uruguay ranks in the top 20 to 25 of the world’s exporters of fresh citrus but accounts for one percent or less of fresh citrus exports by variety and had a total citrus production in 2011 that was less than three percent of U.S. production.