U.S. allows system approach for Chilean lemons ( Chilean Citrus Committee )

(UPDATED, April 9) Effective May 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow imports of Chilean fresh lemons without methyl bromide fumigation for pests.

Instead, the USDA said Chilean lemons will be allowed for import after Chilean growers and packers put in place a series of measures to lower the risk of introducing the Chilean false red mite (Brevipalpus chilensis) into the U.S., according to a news release.

Previously, Chilean lemons were allowed into the U.S. only after they were treated with methyl bromide.

“This is great step forward for the Chilean lemon industry,” Juan Enrique Ortúzar, president of the Chilean Citrus Committee, said in a news release. “With (the) systems approach, the cold chain will remain intact, so our lemons will arrive to the U.S. in the best possible condition.” 

The series of measures includes registration of production sites, a citrus wash-and-rinse protocol to remove the mite, and inspection in Chile. Other Chilean citrus are required to follow those same steps.

Shipments containing mites will not be allowed into the U.S. must be fumigated with methyl bromide, according to the release.


Future volume

The USDA said the rule won’t result in a big increase in lemon imports from Chile.

Over the last five seasons, U.S. annual imports of fresh lemons from all countries averaged 497,000 metric tons, an amount equal to about 60% of U.S. fresh lemon production and almost four times the quantity exported (129,000 metric tons).

More than 90% of U.S. fresh lemon imports come from Mexico, with only 4% supplied by Chile, according to the USDA.

More than 90% of U.S. fresh lemon imports come from Mexico, with only 4% supplied by Chile, according to the USDA.

Ortúzar  said the timing of the rule matches well with the upcoming Chilean season.
“The timing of this confirmation is perfect, as we will start shipping lemons to the U.S. in May,” he said in the release.

In 2017, Chile exported nearly 78,000 tons of lemons, with 55% of the volume shipped to North America (43,000 tons), according to the Chilean Citrus Committee. Chile is the leading Southern Hemisphere supplier of citrus (lemons, navels, clementines, mandarins) to North America, according to the committee.

The USDA said Chile’s Ministry of Agriculture estimates that approximately 60% of Chile’s lemon exports to the U.S. will be able to use the new procedures rather than undergo fumigation.

That would total less than 3% of U.S. lemon imports, and less than 2% of U.S. fresh lemon consumption.