The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking comments until Nov. 28 on a pest risk analysis on the subject of imports of fresh tejocote fruit from Mexico. Considering the fact that I don't have the slightest idea of what "tejocote fruit" looks or tastes like, I was surprised to see a protesting comment about the effort to bring the fruit to the U.S.
From: Adalberto Serrato
We are one of the largest growers of Tejocotes in Southern California; we have been growing them here for the last 9 to 10 years. The importation of Mexico’s Tejocotes into the United States would not only ruin the market place for them it would cause significant financial damage to my business.
It is difficult enough for us to grow the product in our controlled environment, we do struggle with diseases and pests of various types, as written in the Los Angeles Times, “Tejocotes cannot be imported in the country because it can harbor exotic insect pests that could devastate American agriculture, the article goes on to say that the Tejocotes was the fruit most seized by the US Dept of Agricultures Smuggling, Interdiction and Trade Compliance program from 2002 to 2006.”
So we feel that Tejocotes harbor certain diseases and pest that cannot be controlled as well in Mexico there for it is a big concern for us in the farming industry. We presently have established a good market place for what we grow, and do not see the need for foreign Tejcotes in the United States. I think that in short the United States farmer should be supported and protected.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the Mexican fruit on Dec. 9, 2009, with a lengthy feature article headlined "Tejocote is no longer forbidden fruit" with the subhed "The favored ingredient of a seasonal Latino punch cannot be imported, so San Diego County farmers came up with a solution." The article said U.S. -grown fresh tejocote was being sold as high as $8 to $10 per pound to Hispanic customers.
Unfortunately for those farmers like Serrato - but much to the delight of Hispancic consumers - the USDA seems poised to open the door to Mexican tejocote.
More about the tejocote, from the USDA's PRA:
The fruit appears similar to a small apple, yellow to orange in color, and from one to two centimeters in diameter. The trees are evergreen, flowering from January to April. The fruits are formed in spring and mature until November or December, when they are harvested. In Mexico, the fruit is commercially produced mainly in the states of Puebla, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. Fruit is harvested by hand and packed in insect-proof boxes for export. SAGARPA estimates that 200 tons would be exported to the U.S.
Later the PRA seemed to say they are ready to open the door to the Mexican tejocote:
Since we identified no quarantine pests likely to follow the pathway of commercially imported tejocote fruit from Mexico, the pest risk assessment stops here. In the absence of quarantine pests likely to follow the pathway, the proposed irradiation may be unnecessary.
TK: Knowing how these things usually go, here's hoping San Diego growers can become go-to importers of the fruit if they can't profit from growing it.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Within the fresh produce industry, where do members see the biggest growth potential in the next five years?
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