TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reminding the traveling public that certain agricultural items used in holiday decorations are prohibited from entry to the United States. Some items may carry harmful pests and disease, such as the citrus greening disease, which can be devastating to America’s citrus industry.
While travel into the United States is restricted do to the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are still traveling for essential purposes and may be bringing prohibited agricultural items that are incidental to their trip.
“The objective is to protect our American agriculture from plant pests and diseases through education,” said Director of Field Operations Guadalupe Ramirez Jr., Tucson Field Office. “As we approach the Día de los Muertos holiday, let’s work together as a community and not bring prohibited citrus or greenery when transiting through the Arizona ports to prevent citrus greening from gaining a devastating foothold in our country’s agriculture.”
Many border community families celebrate Día de los Muertos by constructing altares (altars) to commemorate the lives of loved ones or famous persons that have passed on. Common types of ornamental greenery such as pine boughs or murraya (orange jasmine) are often used in the construction of altares, but both are prohibited from entry. Murraya is a host plant for the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, an insect that can carry citrus greening disease and is therefore prohibited from entry into the U.S. Citrus greening, also known as “huanglongbing,” is a disease caused by a bacterium that can infect most citrus varieties and some ornamental plants (such as orange jasmine) and was first detected in the U.S. in 2005 in Miami-Dade County, Florida. According to the USDA, the disease has seriously affected citrus production in India, Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
Prohibited citrus includes the following: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes. Other popular fruits that also are prohibited include guavas, mangoes, peaches, apricots and pomegranates.
Often, cut flowers or potted plants known as Chrysanthemum sp. or “mums/margaritas” are used to construct the altares as well. They can carry a disease known as chrysanthemum white rust which can be devastating to our own US production of Chrysantheums.
Failure to declare prohibited agricultural items also can result in fines. Penalties for personal importations of undeclared, prohibited agricultural items, depending on the severity of the violation, can run as high as $1,000 and up to more than $250,000 for commercial importations.
The traveling public can learn more about prohibited fruits, vegetables, plant and animal products and other prohibited items by consulting the “Know Before You Go” guide or the list of prohibited/restricted items.
For more detailed information on huanglongbing or citrus greening disease, the public can consult the USDA/APHIS website.
For more detailed information about what food items can and cannot be brought from Mexico, travelers can access the USDA/APHIS website.
Source: US Customs and Border Protection, Photo CBP