The USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has amended its requirements for the movement of fresh fruit from Florida as of this month.
The requirements were implemented ostensibly to prevent the spread of citrus canker. Reform of these requirements, said the USDA, should provide a mechanism for healthy Florida citrus fruit to be sold to non-citrus producing states.
The new rule removes the ban on fruit shipments from a grove that has had canker in the past two years. And while shipments are not allowed to California, Arizona, Louisiana, Hawaii, Texas, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the regulation does allow shipments to Alabama, which has been included in an embargo the USDA proposed earlier.
This will come as welcome news to the Florida citrus industry, which is struggling to recover from a string of disease and natural disasters. Hurricane Wilma left a trail of disaster in 2005, while the industry's latest concern has been the spread of citrus canker, a disease first detected in Miami in October 1995.
This was in the process of being eradicated when recent hurricanes caused it to be spread across the region.
Estimates last year revealed that the disease has wiped out 10 percent of Florida's citrus groves. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), around 11 million commercial and nursery trees have been affected by the disease.
Yet while citrus production has been under threat, citrus consumption appears to be on the rise, as it fits in with the general trend towards growing consumer awareness about nutrition and health.