Deal negotiations included a virtual site visit due to Covid-19 travel restrictions  

Texas grapefruit growers have gained access to a new international market in Korea following confirmation from the country’s national plant protection organisation — the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency (APQA). 

Aufgeschnittene Grapefruits

Texas is the third US state to gain access for grapefruit to Korea

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) negotiated the technical details that will help ensure grapefruit exported from the US state are free from pests, such as the Mexican fruit fly. Access was officially announced by APQA on 27 June. 

“Texas Citrus Mutual would like to thank USDA APHIS deputy administrator Mark Davidson, trade director Lisa Kohl, and the entire team for its dedication and persistence in obtaining market access to Korea for Texas grapefruit,” said Texas Citrus Mutual president Dale Murden.  

“The Texas citrus industry looks forward to providing Korea with delicious Texas grapefruit and a long, fruitful relationship.”  

Texas joined California and Florida to become the third US state to export grapefruit to the Korean market, which according to the USDA, is worth US$5m annually. 

“This market access is a direct result of APHIS’ negotiations over many years,” said USDA’s Jenny Lester Moffitt, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. 

 “Just as crucial were our dedicated efforts to maintain fruit fly pest-free areas in Texas, and collaboration with APQA to conduct a virtual site visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

Innovation by APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) programme was the key to navigating the site visit requirement.  

“The site visit is part of Korea’s regulatory process, and its goal is to ensure that the Texas industry will be able to meet the requirements of the export programme,” said Lisa Kohl, PPQ’s trade director for Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan.  

“We innovated during the pandemic to allow the site visit to proceed virtually, so Korean officials could stay safe and avoid international travel.” 

Once APQA shared its export requirements, PPQ experts created PowerPoint presentations that included photos and videos to show those requirements were being met. The videos include PPQ staff conducting export inspections and operations in packinghouses. When APQA submitted follow-up questions, PPQ employees created additional PowerPoint presentations with new photos and videos. 

“While the virtual site visit probably added time to the overall market access approval process, it allowed us to complete this regulatory requirement successfully despite the limitations of travel during the pandemic,” Kohl said. 

PPQ’s work to maintain fruit fly-free areas in Texas also played an important role in this accomplishment. These areas make it possible for Texas producers to export to Korea without needing to apply costly treatments to the fruit.