USDA clears way for Central American pitaya, Philippine bananas

04/18/2012 09:32:00 AM
Tom Karst

Fresh pitaya — dragonfruit — from Central America will be allowed into the U.S. under a regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA also is allowing imports of bananas from the Philippines, changed the requirements for imports of Spanish clementines and issued a pest risk assessment for strawberry imports from Egypt.

The USDA said that fresh pitaya from Central America can be imported into the U.S. as of May 16, if the fruit is packed following USDA phytosanitary protocals.

Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama can now ship fresh dragonfruit to the U.S.

According to the USDA, pitaya is grown in Hawaii, California and Florida, but it has no reliable data on how much is produced.

Exporters in Nicaragua expect to ship about 1,200 metric tons of fresh pitaya to the U.S. annually, and the USDA said other Central American countries may ship similar or lesser amounts.

In a regulation also published April 16, the USDA proposes imports of bananas from the Philippines. The bananas will have to be harvested green, monitored for fruit flies and shipped in commercial quantities. The agency said it will consider all comments on the proposal received by June 15.

If approved, the USDA said banana imports from the Philippines won’t be a large factor in the U.S. market.

Bananas have historically been imported into the U.S. mostly from Central and South America. According to the agency, the volume of bananas expected to be imported from the Philippines is not more than 100 containers per year at most, or about 1,800 metric tons. That accounts for only 0.05% of current U.S. banana imports, according to the USDA.

The USDA said is changing regulations for the imports of clementines from Spain, removing requirements on the number of samples by U.S. inspectors. The USDA would have the flexibility to respond to changing risk levels, according to the rule, which is effective May 16.

The USDA also issued a pest risk assessment that allows imports of strawberries from Egypt. The USDA said it will consider comments on the pest risk assessment on or before June 15.



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