LAREDO, Texas — As the U.S.-México border community prepares for the upcoming All Souls Day (Día de Los Muertos) holiday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are advising the traveling public that certain agricultural items used in holiday decorations are prohibited from entry to the U.S. and can carry harmful pests and disease, such as the citrus greening disease, which if allowed to establish itself further can be devastating to America’s citrus industry.
“Protecting our American agriculture from plant pests and diseases is critical to the economic security of the U.S.,” said Director of Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office. “As we approach the Día de los Muertos holiday, it is important to remind our community partners transiting our South Texas ports of entry to remember not to bring citrus, sugarcane or prohibited greenery back from México.”
Many border community families celebrate Día de los Muertos by constructing altares (altars) to commemorate the lives of loved ones or famous persons that have passed on. Common types of ornamental greenery such as pine boughs, murraya (orange jasmine), choisya, chrysanthemums, and gladiolus are often used in the construction of altares, but all are prohibited from entry. Murraya and choisya are host plants for the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citriKuwayama, an insect that can carry citrus greening disease and is therefore prohibited from entry into the U.S. Chrysanthemums are susceptible to chrysanthemum white rust caused by the fungus Puccinia horiana and gladiolus can be affected by Uromyces transversalis, gladiolus rust.
Prohibited citrus includes the following: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes. Other popular fruits that also are prohibited include whole sugarcane, 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 prohibited/restricted items at the following link.
For more detailed information on citrus greening disease, the public can consult this link on the USDA/APHIS website.