The proposed rule, with a comment period that extends to late October, will allow Chinese mandarin oranges, pomelos, sweet oranges, satsuma mandarin and ponkan into the U.S. market if various safeguards against pests and diseases are followed.
Those conditions include registration of places of production and packinghouses, sourcing of pest-free propagative material, inspection for quarantine pests, bagging of fruit and other measures, according to the proposal.
Currently, U.S. regulations do not permit imports of fresh citrus from China. The proposed rule said that the potential volume of citrus imports from China likely would be limited. The majority of China’s fresh orange exports, mostly navel oranges, go mainly to Russia and to neighboring countries in Asia, according to the proposed rule. China’s fresh orange exports to North America — mainly Canada — now range from about 100 to 300 metric tons per year. If Chinese orange exports to the U.S. total 300 metric tons, the USDA said that would be equivalent to about one-fourth of 1% of fresh orange imports from all sources in 2012-13.
Chinese exports of mandarins to the U.S. could be more significant, according to the USDA. Imports of fresh tangerine and mandarin varieties from China would help meet the growing demand for these citrus species, according to the USDA. Potential quantity from China could match the nearly 4.5% annual increase in imports (about 6,300 metric tons) that has occurred over the past five years.
The USDA said that U.S. imports of pomelo and ponkan from China would be relatively minor.
Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said that the industry has been aware that a the proposal was in the works.
“We will take a look at it and make sure the safeguards are in place, and determine how that will be monitored and enforced,” he said. Nelsen said California producers can beat Chinese citrus in the market place, with better and more consistent quality and a more sophisticated infrastructure.