The California citrus industry is in fast-track mode to enact solutions to keep Fuller rose beetle (FRB) eggs out of Navel orange shipments exported next year to Korea.

Starting in January, a failure to do so could bring California Navel shipments to Korea to a halt or reduce shipment levels, according to Jim Cranney, president of the California Citrus Quality Council (CCQC) in Auburn, Calif.

Korea is the top importer of California Navels, valued at about $213 million to the California industry annually. On average, California ships about 10 million cartons of Navels to Korea each year.

About 30 percent of all California-grown citrus is exported. This represents about 40 percent of the industry’s annual income.

Cranney says the problem maker is the eggs of the Fuller rose beetle, Naupactus (Asynonychus) godmaniand, which are potential hitchhikers in California Navel shipments to Korea. The beetle likes to lay its eggs under the calyx (button) on citrus.

According to UC IPM Online, the FRB adult is a brown, flightless snout beetle with one generation of offspring per year. The adult pest emerges from the soil year-round and climbs into the tree via branches or the trunk. It causes minor damage to the Navel orange tree leaves and roots but, no damage to the fruit. There is no threat to human health.

Currently, Korea fumigates imported California Navels with methyl bromide upon arrival at Korean ports to kill any possible FRB eggs in the shipment. Korea fears that if the pest was introduced in Korea it could become a problem on crops other than citrus, where the insect could cause more serious crop damage.

Korea wants to eliminate methyl bromide exposure to port workers and the logistical complications which fumigation causes in busy port facilities. Some governments around the world are also voluntarily reducing the use of methyl bromide due to environmental concerns.

 

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Starting in 2014, Korea is likely to expect the California citrus industry to treat Navels for FRB before shipping the fruit to Korea.

The country’s request was shared with California citrus leaders several years ago. Korea asked that California work quickly to institute the change. The change is likely to become effective next year.

“The elimination of Fuller rose beetle eggs on Korea-bound Navel shipments could be the responsibility of the California citrus industry effective in 2014,” said Jim Cranney, president of the California Citrus Quality Council (CCQC), Auburn, Calif.

The CCQC’s mission is to solve issues brought about by domestic or international regulatory action. Cranney says that except for the possible introduction of Huanglongbing, the Fuller rose beetle-Navel issue is the most important citrus industry challenge in California.

“Effective next year, a single Fuller rose beetle egg found in a shipment bound for Korea could cause the shipment to be rejected before it leaves California,” Cranney said. “An interruption in trade could deal a major financial blow to the California citrus industry.”

It is unknown at this point whether Korea will insist on the complete removal of blanket fumigation in Korea or if a potential transition period might be negotiated.