Mexico opens to South Carolina, Georgia peachesGrowers in South Carolina and Georgia are now allowed to ship peaches to Mexico.

The U.S. and Mexico struck a deal in February that allows the two southeastern states to join California as peach exporters to Mexico, said Alyn Kiel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture"s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Previously, South Carolina and Georgia had been allowed to ship peaches to Mexico, Kiel said. But in 1994 Mexico banned imports from the two states, citing quarantine concerns over pests including plum curculio.

APHIS began negotiating in 2008 on behalf of Georgia and South Carolina for re-entry into Mexico, Kiel said.

Under the terms of the February agreement, measures including field surveys, trapping, packinghouse inspections, fruit cutting and post-entry inspection must be in place for Georgia and South Carolina fruit to be exported to Mexico.

Kiel said that as of Aug. 2 the agency was aware of two southeastern grower-shippers that had exported peaches to Mexico this summer, with a third slated to ship late-season varieties in August.

Fort Valley, Ga.-based Lane Packing LLC hasn"t shipped any peaches to Mexico yet, but it"s definitely keeping the door open, said Duke Lane III, vice president of sales.

"We will certainly explore options next (season)," Lane said. "The opportunity is big."

In 2010, about 25,000 metric tons of fresh-market peaches were shipped from the U.S. to Mexico, according to the USDA"s Foreign Agricultural Service.