(May 29) FRESNO, Calif. — Unfumigated California stone fruit soon will be on its way into Mexico, thanks to an agreement between Mexican agriculture officials and the California stone fruit industry.

Price was the final sticking point in negotiations between the two sides for this year’s program, which allows participating growers to ship apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines into Mexico unfumigated.

Under an agreement finalized during the last week of May, California growers will pay $350,000 to participate in the program for five months.

“The last element was cost,” said Rob Neenan, director of technical and transportation services for the California Grape and Tree Fruit League. “It’s more money than last year but a lot less than Mexico had originally asked for.”

Last year growers paid $333,000 for a six-month program. This year, Mexico originally had asked for $554,000 for a six-month program, Neenan said.

Mexican inspectors were set to arrive in California by June 1 to look over participating growers’ operations. But before California growers can ship unfumigated fruit, the inspectors must go through all the participants’ operations and notify the border inspection stations of their findings.
That means it will be mid-June before any unfumigated California fruit makes it across the border, Neenan said. By then, the first half of the apricot season will have concluded.

Mexican and U.S. agriculture officials and representatives of the California stone fruit growers have been negotiating this year’s deal for about five months.

Besides wanting more money, Mexico insisted on bumping up the number of inspectors it sent into California at grower expense from six to eight. Four years ago, Mexico sent two.

Mexico also insisted on expanding the program to target a total of 21 pests this year, some of which U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say already exist in Mexico.

The agreement originally was aimed at preventing the introduction of the Oriental fruit moth into Mexico. But in the middle of the season in 2001, Mexico expanded the list to include additional pests, including the peach twig borer, the navel orange worm, the carob moth, the western tree fruit leaf roller, the oblique banded leaf roller and the orange tortrix.

With this year’s hurdles passed and an agreement reached, growers are ready to ship.

The U.S. shipped about 2 million cartons of stone fruit to Mexico each of the past two years.