New US security legislation could disrupt around US$60m worth of Washington cherry exports next season, according to tree fruit companies in the region.
A new homeland security rule from the Transportation Security Administration will detail how boxes of cherries must be screened to pinpoint possible security threats such as bombs.
Under the ruling, 50 per cent of exports that travel in the cargo holds of passenger planes will require screening by fruit packers after airlines and freight forwarding companies refused to take responsibility for the process.
Mark Powers, vice-president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, told the Wenatchee World that fruit companies are unsure of how to perform the screening, or indeed whether it is financially viable.
"The logistics of screening at an airport by freight forwarders is very difficult to imagine because their isn't an approved screening device that can handle a full pallet," said Mr Powers.
He added that boxes of cherries would have to be broken apart and run through a sorting machine or be opened for testing, while the idea of screening packing sheds has also been discussed by some companies.