The rejection has brought Korea’s quarantine practices into the spotlight as the only Californian citrus customer who tests for the fungus.
The loss came to nearly US$400,000, US$20-22 for each of 19,000 cartons, reported the Capital Press. Some of the rejected fruit may have been redirected to Japan, who does not test for the disease.
Septoria spot is common in California’s citrus orchards, and the Korean market requires growers to spray at least once with a copper-based fungicide to control it, adding about US$1 per carton.
The rejected fruit came from 11 different packhouses, both Sunkist and others, and the industry has resigned itself to the loss.
“From our perspective, there’s no use fighting over this. We have to refine the protocol they’re using in Korea,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.
The USDA will be reviewing the protocols later this year, said Mr Nelsen. Korea is an important market, and imports 5-7m cartons of Californian citrus annually, he added.
USDA phyto papers were rewritten to allow the fruit to be sold in Japan, but Mr Neslen said much of the fruit was simply disposed of.