LAREDO, TEXAS — As the U.S.-Mexico 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.
“Our frontline agriculture specialists conduct examinations of agricultural items brought by cross-border travelers to ensure that plant pests and diseases do not enter the U.S. and harm American agriculture,” said CBP Director, Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office. “At this festive time of year, we want to remind travelers that ornamental greenery such as orange jasmine and certain citrus fruits are prohibited so there are no surprises at the border.”
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. A common type of ornamental greenery known as murraya or orange jasmine is often 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 U.S.
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 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the disease has seriously affected citrus production in India, Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
Citrus fruit that is prohibited from personal importation includes the following: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes. Other popular fruits that also are prohibited include guavas, mangoes, peaches and pomegranates.