Due to Mediterranean Fruit Fly Detections, the US Prohibits Imports of Fresh Bell Peppers from Spain

Fresh Bell Pepper
Published Jan 10, 2023
US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a federal order on December 29th, 2022, prohibiting imports of fresh bell peppers from Spain due to intercepted shipments infected with the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata, Medfly). Medfly threatens agricultural production in the US due to its wide array of plant hosts. Even though most US imports of fresh bell peppers come from Mexico, Spain is still among the top ten importing countries, with a recorded growth in import value of 109.69% from 2016-2021.

To prevent the introduction of the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata, Medfly), the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will prohibit the importation of fresh bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) from Spain beginning December 29, 2022, according to the USDA. APHIS also prohibited the transport of these materials overland in-bond south of 39° latitude and west of 104° longitude. APHIS is taking this action in response to multiple Medfly detections at ports of entry into the United States during Customs and Border Protection inspections of commercial consignments of fresh bell peppers from Spain.

Medfly and Damage on Apple FruitsSource: EPPO

Because of its wide host range and rapid reproduction, the medfly poses an unacceptable risk to the US. This ban will remain in effect until APHIS investigates and determines that commercial consignments of fresh bell peppers from Spain do not pose a risk to US agriculture. Damage to the fruit comes from both adults (the female stings the fruit while laying eggs into unripened or ripe fruit) and larvae (damage the inside of the fruit as they eat it). In most countries with a warm, Mediterranean, tropical, or subtropical climate, Medfly is the most severe pest of citrus and many other fruits. Ceratitis capitata is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, but it has spread to Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, North Africa, Southern Europe, the Middle East, Western Australia, and parts of Central, South, and North America. Medfly is a polyphagous species with larvae that develop in various unrelated fruits. Apples, avocados, citrus fruits, figs, kiwifruits, mangoes, medlars, and pears are all specified as host plants. Still, Medfly has also been recorded on wild plant hosts belonging to many different families.

Source: Tridge

Although the majority of US pepper import comes from Mexico and Canada (combined 96.36% of market share and a total import value of USD 1.96B in 2021), Spain is still among the top ten trade partners and in a period from 2016-2021 recorded 109.69% growth in value up to USD 4.38M in 2021. On the other side, Spain's export of fresh bell pepper mainly goes to the EU, with a US export share of just 0.1% and USD 2.04M in 2021. Due to a small percentage of Spanish export of peppers to the US, only companies specializing in the US market will suffer. In this part of the season, peppers come from greenhouses, and the remaining orders must be redistributed in the EU.

For other Capsicum species (Capsicum baccatum L. var. baccatum, Capsicum chinense, and Capsicum frutescens) which are currently allowed to enter the US, the requirement is as follows: The full botanical name (genus and species) of the pepper in the shipment must be included in the phytosanitary certificate accompanying each consignment from Spain, according to APHIS. Due to Medfly's broad scope of plant hosts, expectations are that more and more products will be banned or will require additional measures for export to the US. 

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