Citrus officials cautious as previous trade agreement talks failed to reopen California market
California fresh-market oranges boxed and ready for sale to consumers.
Last year the Chinese government shut the door to California fresh citrus after some export samples were discovered with brown rot, a move that likely cost the state’s fresh citrus industry tens of millions of dollars.
That door may be opening once again. An announcement that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reached an agreement with China’s phytosanitary regulatory agency on cultural practices, preharvest treatments, packinghouse inspections and an inspection visit to California citrus operations by Chinese technical officers suggests California citrus could once-again be exported to China.
California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen is not ready to pop any corks just yet.
“We thought we had an agreement last year,” Nelsen said of a trade mission to China that he and USDA officials took to address various barriers to U.S. exports.
Nelsen’s wait-and-see attitude is based on a forthcoming visit by Chinese officials to California citrus operations. Those inspections will look at a number of issues China and USDA officials agreed to since the export ban was imposed.
China wants the California citrus industry to skirt prune its trees in order to significantly reduce the risk of Phytophthora infections. Fruit destined for China should be harvested above 20 inches from the ground.
Preharvest monitoring of Phytophthora should also be conducted in all groves, including soil, branch and leave samples, with laboratory identification. Preventative sprays should be utilized based on infection risk. Fungicides must be registered with Chinese regulatory agencies. A minimum of one copper application should be made following the first rainfall and additional applications made based on environmental conditions.
China also has a zero-tolerance mandate for decay during packinghouse inspections. Grower lots with decay will be rejected and will not be certified for the Chinese market. Phytosanitary certificates must be issued prior to shipment, with specific language dictated for those certificates.
Chinese officials will visit California packing and growing operations during the first year of the agreement to ensure compliance with agreement protocols. Related costs of the visit will be borne by the California citrus industry.
Postharvest treatments with potassium phosphite are not required under the supplementary agreement.