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 representing Laredo Field Office ports of entry 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. Also CBP would like to remind the public of prohibited fruits that tend to be brought by travelers during this holiday period.
“Our CBP officers and agriculture specialists are the nation’s frontline of defense against plant pests and diseases that could inflict serious harm on American agriculture,” said Director, Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office. “At this festive time of year, we want to remind travelers ahead of time 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 individuals 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); this disease was first detected in the U.S. in 2005 in the state of Florida, Miami-Dade County. 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.