Last October, the USDA formally requested recognition of pre-export certification for California Almonds shipped to the EU. The request came after the successful implementation of the Voluntary Aflatoxin Sampling Plan (VASP) program, beginning in September 2007. VASP was developed after a sharp increase in aflatoxin-related rejections at various European ports. At that time, import authorities were controlling a significant percentage of containers from California.

Shipments have continued to grow since VASP was implemented, and a dramatic reduction in the number of rejections led to increased confidence. Building on the success of the VASP program, Europe’s recognition of pre-export certification would reduce almond import controls from about 5 percent to less than 1 percent. Bulk almonds shipped under the program would be accompanied by a certificate signed by a USDA representative that confirms that aflatoxin testing has been done, and that the handler is a signatory of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Almond Board.

An ad hoc EU committee is scheduled to meet in the first quarter of 2013 to consider the request. ABC will keep the industry updated on the progress of pre-export certification.