Tucson, Ariz. - As the U.S.-Mexico border community prepares for the upcoming All Souls Day, or Día de Los Muertos, holiday, 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 itself further, could be devastating to America's citrus industry.
Many border community families celebrate Día de los Muertos by constructing altars, or altars, to commemorate the lives of loved ones or famous persons that have passed on. A common type of ornamental greenery known as murraya or orange jasmine is sometimes used in the construction of altares. 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 US.
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. 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 U.S.-Mexico border residents can take is to remember not to bring any orange jasmine or other prohibited citrus fruits and plants from Mexico 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.