The proposal said that the fruit areas with citrus black spot would have meet certain conditions before allowed entry to the U.S., including shipment traceability, packinghouse registration and procedures and phytosanitary treatment.
South African citrus varieties that would be given access under the proposal are grapefruit, sweet oranges, mandarins, lemons and tangelos.
The USDA said it will consider all comments received by Oct. 27.
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, Calif., said that citrus black spot is a serious disease, ranking only behind citrus greening in terms of potential damage to growers if it is introduced to the U.S. The disease has never been completely controlled or managed in regions where it exists, he said.
“We will take a hard look at this proposal,” he said.
The European Union is an important market for South African citrus, but imports were recently suspended for one growing season due to concerns over citrus black spot virus. Possible future restrictions on South African citrus sales to Europe could influence exports to the U.S., according to the proposal.
However, the USDA said a significant portion of the Republic of South Africa’s tangelo and mandarin varieties is grown in areas that are free from the virus and already eligible for shipment to the U.S. Any increase in tangerine and mandarin imports as a result of the proposed rule is likely to be limited, according to the USDA.