Limes are highly susceptible to the bacterial disease huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening, said Stuart Kuehn, Texas state plant health director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
And while many Mexican lime trees, particularly in the Colima growing region, have succumbed to the disease, a protocol for inspecting limes to prevent the spread of greening has not slowed imports, Kuehn said.
Greening has destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of citrus in Florida.
Through March 9, Mexican lime exports to the U.S. were up from the year before, according to the USDA.
The protocol calls for the removal of all leaf material before limes can ship from Mexico to the U.S.
Except for a few isolated incidents, it’s been business as usual for lime exporters and importers, said Ray Prewett, president of Mission-based Texas Citrus Mutual.
“There have been a few loads turned back, but I’m not aware of any other problems,” Prewett said. “The fruit itself is not a vector for the disease.”
John McClung, the former president and chief executive officer of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association, who still does work for the association, said some imports have been slowed for the new inspections, but he agreed with Prewett and Kuehn that no significant delays have been reported.