By Doug Ohlemeier

Staff Writer for The Packer

Despite a federal quarantine on citrus shipments from Florida to other citrus-producing states, industry leaders and European Union authorities say the state’s shipments to Europe aren’t threatened.

A June 24 report on the Web site of Stuart, Fla.-based Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s quarantine had the European Union considering prohibiting Florida imports.

Canice Nolan, head of the Food Safety, Health and Consumer Affairs Section at the European Union’s Delegation of the European Commission to the U.S. in Washington, D.C., said Europe is still accepting Florida citrus.

“No ban is being considered,” he said. “But we’re keeping a close eye on it. We don’t want the (canker) disease in Europe.”

Nolan said the EU insists on a systems-based approach that requires fruit to be shipped from groves certified free of canker. He said EU officials have watched as more of the state’s counties formerly free of the plant disease have reported infections.

Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, Vero Beach, Fla., declined specific comment, and he said he preferred not to fan the fire on the issue.

Bournique said he and other industry leaders were working with the USDA and hadn’t heard of a potential ban on shipments to European customers.

Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Citrus, Lakeland, agreed, saying the agency doesn’t think there’s a problem with exporting Florida fruit.

“We do not believe the quarantine of Florida citrus fruit in the United States will affect exports,” he said.

Japan, the largest U.S. fresh grapefruit market, already has canker, Meadows said.

Terrance McElroy, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Commissioner Charles Bronson continues working to overturn the June 5 USDA decision.

“There’s always been a concern that if the USDA made a determination, despite the science, to prevent our citrus from being shipped to citrus-producing states, there are any number of foreign trading partners that may give it pause and take a second look at it,” McElroy said. “The concern is they may say ‘What does USDA know that we don’t know?’”

McElroy said he hasn’t heard of any other export markets expressing concerns over Florida fruit.

Ray Gilmer, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the organization is looking to Bronson for leadership on how to respond to the USDA decision.

“We’re still working to see what kind of science-based strategies can be employed that would ease everyone’s concerns,” he said.

This article originally appeared in the July 10 print edition of The Packer.