Importer elects to destroy diseased commodity
HOUSTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, recently discovered an invasive fungus in a cargo shipment of Pacaya that required the importer to take immediate action upon notification as the shipment would not be allowed to enter the U.S.
The shipment of Pacaya which are the edible flowers of date palms originated in Guatemala and its stems were infected with fungi could devastate crops if introduced. Pacaya is frequently imported to Houston. It is the only palm that yields an edible blossom; it is a traditional as well as a commercial food item.
CBP agriculture specialists obtained samples of the diseased stems during its examination and forwarded specimens to the US Department of Agriculture where specialists determined the disease to be Colletotrichcum sp. (Glomerellaceae); it is fungi that live and feed on plants. This fungus infects a wide variety of hosts causing plant disease in important crops worldwide. The importer decided to destroy the agriculture commodity after receiving the emergency action notification advising that the shipment would need to be removed or destroyed.
“This discovery is an example of the dedication and commitment of our agriculture specialists to protect our nation’s agriculture industry,” said Houston CBP Port Director Shawn Polley. “Preventing pests and plant diseases from entering and taking hold in our forests, crops and neighborhood gardens starts at the ports of entry around the country by men and women fully focused on agriculture shipments imported to the country.”
According to a study found in National Institute of Health, Colletotrichum species ranks eighth in a top 10 fungal pathogens and can include a range of species from 29 to over 700. If the fungi are allowed to establish itself in the southern part of the USA, it will affect the production of high value crops, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, mangoes, and avocadoes.
CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day nationally last year, they inspected almost 1 million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the United States, intercepting 240 pests and 2,677 quarantine material interceptions such as plant, meat, animal byproduct, and soil at U.S. ports of entry.