Chinese Citrus Imports a Sour Pill for Florida Growers

Beginning in mid-April, the USDA authorized the importation of five types of commercially produced fresh citrus fruit from China into the continental U.S. According to the agency, after thorough analysis, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service scientists determined that pummelo, ‘Nanfeng’ honey mandarin, ponkan, sweet orange, and Satsuma mandarin fruit from China could be safely imported into the U.S. under a systems approach to protect against the introduction of plant pests.

Both industry leaders and growers criticized the move. While the imports were believed to have a small market impact, at least initially, most were concerned about the potential of invasive pest and disease threats it posed. The fact COVID-19 originated out of China only heightens the sentiment.

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried came out strongly in opposition to the move and called on USDA to reconsider. She argued that her opposition was two-fold.

“After all that Florida’s industry has overcome and the current challenges facing our farmers, to put our agriculture industry at risk by allowing both the introduction of additional invasive species, as well as increased foreign competition, is beyond misguided,” she noted in a letter to the agency.

22 Pests

The fear of invasive pests from China is not unfounded. A 2019 risk management assessment by USDA found that 22 pests and diseases of quarantine significance were noted from China that could follow the pathway of introduction into the continental U.S. These included three different mites, a leaf miner, eight different Bactrocera fruit flies, Asian corn borer, Asian citrus psyllid, a bacterial pathogen causing citrus greening, a bacterial pathogen causing yellowing, a complex of bacteria causing citrus canker, three different fungi (one causing citrus black spot), Citrus bent leaf viroid, and Satsuma dwarf virus.

All 22 are quarantinable pests and pose a significant risk to Florida’s citrus industry and other agricultural crops grown in the state including avocado, blueberries, citrus, peaches, peppers, persimmons, tomatoes, and many other valuable crops.

Multiple farm organizations have called on USDA to reverse the decision to allow the citrus imports from China. At press time, USDA had not responded to those calls or announced any changes to its decision.

Readers React

When the breaking news of the USDA allowing imports of certain citrus varieties from China was posted on, readers were quick to react with comments on the story. Here’s what a few had to say.

“I am a retired citrus pathologist from South Africa now living in Georgia and have spent several sabbaticals at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. There is no reason citrus should be imported from China, the cons are too many. Rather, support our citrus growers and keep our citrus industry pest and disease free.” — Lawrence

“MOST definitely do NOT import China citrus! The greening disease is still killing trees so, really, we don’t need foreign citrus with possible diseases. Are you crazy?”Louise

“Who is running the USDA? In the middle of all that we are going through, how anyone in their right mind could trust the Chinese on safety. God knows we have too many invasive species; no need for more.”Carlos

What do you think? Leave a comment in the section below.

Comments 7

  1. Allow me to reply with recollections from previous reports on this China fruit deal.

    Didn’t this Chinese fruit deal originate from Georgia and have a connection with Georgia cotton? And obviously our Ag Secretary is from……ohhh never mind. By the way, what kind of dollar figure is on the Chinese fancy fruit entering the USA vs the cotton going out to China?

  2. I’m a retired citrus grower–3rd generation–. The Asian Citrus psillid, introduced to us by Communist China, has devastated the Florida Citrus Industry. Now, China has spread Covid-19 all over the world, deliberately or accidentally (take your pick). Why would we allow them the privilege of wiping their feet on us? What kind of sane person would make a decision like this? Please reconsider your decision.

  3. Everything from China must be labeled”FROM CHINA”. Let the public decide if they want to buy it. I think you’ll find most people will go with out if there isn’t an alternative. When I shop online now, I ask the question, where is this product made? I have paid close to double for a product made in the USA vs made in China.

  4. Decisions in 2020 continue to get dumber and dumber. This is one of them. A HUGE ABSOLUTE NO!!!

  5. The last thing Americans want is food grown in China,we have lots of groves of the best fruit in the world right here,lets support American farmers for a change,China is trying to buy this country right out from under our nose,Wake up America!!

  6. No more Fruit for me! I am sick , and tired of power houses political gain idiots..playing with American lives!!

  7. Looking at this article, I miss the time when I didn’t wear a mask. baccaratsite Hopefully this corona will end soon. My blog is a blog that mainly posts pictures of daily life before Corona and landscapes at that time. If you want to remember that time again, please visit us.

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