U.S. considers easing import rules for Central American tomatoes
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service may amend its regulations governing the import of pink and red tomatoes from six Central American countries.
The agency is considering allowing these imports from approved registered production sites in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Tomato imports from these countries would still be subject to pest trapping, pre-harvest inspection, and shipping procedures aimed at preventing the spread of quarantine pests to the United States, USDA said.
The request for the regulation change was submitted by the El Salvadorian government. The USDA determined that the regulation changes could also apply to producers in the other five Central American countries.
USDA said the conditions that it would impose on the Central American countries would be similar to those in place for importing tomatoes from France, Morocco and Western Sahara, and Spain. The USDA noted that tomatoes are shipped to the United States from more than 200 greenhouses in Europe.
“Since the start of the tomato systems approach in France and Spain, the number of pest interceptions has been very low, with an approximate shipment infestation rate of 0.005 percent in Spain and 0.06 percent in France,” USDA said.
USDA also expects minimal economic impact on domestic tomato producers from Central American imports. The agency said 2003 marked the end of a 10-year period during which the United States did not import tomatoes from any Central American country.
U.S. imports of fresh tomatoes mainly originate in Mexico, Canada and the Netherlands, with Mexico being by far the largest supplier.
USDA will take comments for the proposed regulation through April 7. For more information, contact Donna L. West, senior import specialist at USDA, at (301) 734-8758.