San Juan, Puerto Rico - U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are advising the traveling public that certain agricultural items that are used in holiday decorations are prohibited from entry to the U.S. and can carry the citrus greening disease, which, if allowed to establish it further, could be devastating to America's citrus industry.
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, Fla.
Puerto Rico is already under quarantine as a result of various cases where the disease has been detected, limiting the exportation of local oranges.
According to the USDA, the disease has seriously affected citrus production in India, Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
To combat the further spread of citrus greening into the U.S., CBP and USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service have joined forces to launch a citrus greening public awareness campaign timed to begin with All Souls Day.
The objective is to educate the community about the devastating impact of citrus greening and what actions they can take to prevent citrus greening from establishing a greater foothold in the U.S.
Among the actions travelers can take is to remember not to bring any orange jasmine or other prohibited citrus fruits and plants from foreign destinations into the U.S.
Prohibited citrus includes the following: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes. Other popular non-citrus fruits that also are prohibited include guavas, mangoes, peaches and pomegranates.
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 top 10 travelers tips.
For more detailed information on citrus diseases and how the public can help safeguard the citrus industry, please visit the USDA/APHIS website: SaveOurCitrus.
For more detailed information on huanglongbing or citrus greening disease, the public can consult the United States Department of Agriculture website.