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 advise the traveling public that certain agricultural items used in holiday decorations are prohibited from entering the United States. These items can carry harmful pests and diseases, such as citrus huanglongbing.
Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening, is a disease caused by a bacterium that can infect most citrus varieties and some ornamental plants, such as orange jasmine. If allowed to spread, the virus can be devastating to America’s citrus industry. This dangerous plant disease was first detected in the U.S. in 2005 in Miami-Dade County, Florida. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, huanglongbing is one of the world’s most serious citrus diseases. There is no known cure for this plant disease, which kills citrus trees and greatly reduces citrus production.
Many border communities celebrate Día de los Muertos by constructing altars or memorials to honor the lives of loved ones or famous persons who have passed on. Common flowers used in these memorials are yellow and orange Marigold and other ornamental greenery like Murraya or orange jasmine. Murraya is a host plant for the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, an insect that can carry the bacteria that cause huanglongbing and is, therefore, prohibited from entering the U.S.
“We want to remind travelers that there are certain types of greenery and citrus that are prohibited from entering the U.S.,” said Sidney Aki, Director of Field Operations for the San Diego Field Office. “Protecting U.S. agricultural resources from invasive pests and diseases is crucial to ensuring economic vitality.”
Prohibited citrus includes the following: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges, and sweet limes. Other popular fruits that are also prohibited include guavas, mangoes, peaches, and pomegranates.
In addition to these fruits, the importation of tomato and pepper plants from Mexico is prohibited. This prohibition went into effect in November 2019 to prevent the spread of the Tomato brown rugose fruit virus, which can cause severe fruit loss in tomato and pepper crops.