US could soon lift fumigation rule for Peruvian spears

Peruvian exporters are hoping to soon get some good news that should see their fresh asparagus have a longer shelf life and more enduring eating quality in the United States.
Fri 28/04/2023 by Julie Butler

Currently, fresh green asparagus exports from Peru must be fumigated with methyl bromide in order to enter their biggest market, the US. The requirement is designed to reduce the entry of pests. But Peru’s national phytosanitary agency Senasa has sought for fumigation to be replaced by a systems approach. In March, the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) told Asparagus World it was considering alternative phytosanitary import requirements, including the systems approach proposed by Peru. In 2022, APHIS published a pest risk assessment for stakeholder consultation which closed on August 8. “We have reviewed the comments received and are developing risk mitigation measures to support safe importation without fumigation. If APHIS determines that imports could occur safely under alternate measures, we will publish an initial notice of proposal for new import requirements in the Federal Register. The initial notice would be available for public comment for 60 days. After, we would evaluate all comments received and make any needed changes to the requirements before we publish a final notice authorising importation,” an APHIS spokesperson said.

 “Improve the competitiveness of Peruvian asparagus”

Under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), a phytosanitary systems approach is defined as the integration of different phytosanitary measures, at least two of which act independently, that cumulatively reduce the risk of pest and pathogen movement to the appropriate level of phytosanitary protection. In a press release last year, Senasa said replacing the fumigation requirement would “improve the competitiveness of Peruvian asparagus in terms of quality and shelf life; mainly benefiting small producers and exporters of this product to the US.” Research* shows even a moderate fumigation treatment harms both the shelf life and eating quality of spears even if there’s no visible damage. In 2022, Peru exported 24.8 million 11lb (≈5kg) boxes of fresh asparagus, with 73% going to the US.

* D. J. Beever, C. W. Yearsley & M. G. Hogg (1985) Effect of post-harvest fumigation on quality of asparagus spears, New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, 28:4, 537-543, DOI: 10.1080/00288233.1985.10418000

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