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Argentine lemons coming to U.S. May 26, domestic producers in fear

Staff Writer |
California citrus industry lobbyists and grove owners came to Washington last May to lobby federal officials, hopeful they could delay or prevent a decision by the Obama administration to allow Argentine lemon imports banned since 2001.

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On Monday, after a series of bureaucratic timelines passed, the Trump administration announced Argentine lemons will start flowing into U.S. supermarkets May 26.

The domestic industry, concerned with the potential for pests and diseases in addition to the economic impact of a flooding of the market, is based in Ventura County, where they are the second most lucrative crop after strawberries.

The domestic lemon market, 92 percent of it in California, was worth $647 million in the 2013-14 growing season. Argentina is the world’s largest lemon producer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a detailed rule last year that set out a production and import regimen for Argentine exporters.

It requires a stringent inspection for pests and diseases, picking lemons while still green and packing them within 24 hours of harvest. They would also have to be disinfected and waxed and carry certifications they are disease-free.

Citrus growers, particularly outside Florida, where the Huanglongbing disease, known as citrus greening and caused by the Asian citrus psyllid, has decimated that crop, are terrified the Argentine fruit could introduce other invasive diseases to Texas, Arizona and California citrus groves.

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