September 26, 2009

U.S., others agree to fight citrus pest

The United States and Latin American nations say they have banded together to fight the spread of an insect that carries a disease fatal to citrus trees.

The United States, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama Friday launched a coordinated effort to fight the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid, which has ravaged orchards in Florida and now is threatening California's $1.6 billion citrus industry, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Representatives of the nations, meeting this week in Monterrey, Mexico, said they would all impose quarantines on the movements of plants and carry out more tests to see how the disease is spreading. Experts say the citrus psyllid is starting to populate Southern California, warning that it carries citrus greening disease, also called Huanglongbing, or HLB.

The Times said the outbreaks of citrus greening nearest to California so far have been in Louisiana and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

HLB is like a wildfire with unlimited fuel, and all of our respective countries have to be prepared for when the wind starts blowing in our direction, California Citrus Quality Council president Jim Cranney told the Times.