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World Trade Situation and Policy Updates
USDA Protects 14 New Plant Varieties
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service has issued certificates of protection to developers of 14 new varieties of seed-reproduced plants. The varieties include fescue, pea, potato, ryegrass, soybean, wheat, and watermelon. The 14 certificates are being issued under the Plant Variety Protection Act. The certificates require that the varieties be new, distinct, uniform, and stable. The owners will have the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, import, and export their products in the United States for the duration of protection. For additional information contact the Plant Variety Protection Office at 301-504-5518 (tel.), 301-504-5291 (fax).
USDA Reports PACA Actions Against 5 Produce Businesses
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited six produce businesses for failure to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. These businesses have been barred from operating in the produce industry. The businesses failed to answer complaints served by USDA within the period PACA prescribes. PACA provides for damages to be paid by those not meeting their contractual obligations in buying and selling fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. USDA is required to suspend the license of a business that fails to pay PACA reparations awarded against it. (For more information contact Cobby Williams, AMS, (202)720-8998.)
FDA Issues Warning About Avocado Pulp in Southern California
FDA is warning consumers in southern California not to consume avocado pulp products from two distributors, G Products and T & G Sales, because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. G Products is recalling three lots of its avocado products. T & G Sales was issued a warning letter by the FDA on February 1, 2001. No illnesses have been reported to date. This recall is the result of routine sampling by the FDA at the time of importation.
New Version of Taiwan's Plant Quarantine Requirements are Available
The Taiwan authorities at the Council of Agriculture (COA) recently released a new version of Taiwan's plant quarantine requirements. The new version, dated January 5, 2001, is to supercede the old version, which was published in May 1999, and effective June 15, 1999. The new version, is scheduled to be implemented 60 days after announcement. Any shipments which arrive on or after March 7, 2001 must comply with the new requirements. According to contacts with the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ), the only change that would affect U.S. plant exports to Taiwan is a new additional declaration (AD) requirement for Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella Occidentalis Pergande). According to the new requirements, imports of the flower, stem, leaf, bud and fruit portion of any host materials of western flower thrips require an AD on the phytosanitary certificate stating that the product has been thoroughly inspected and found free of the pest, or has been properly fumigated prior to shipment.
NASS Lowers Florida's Orange Crop
On February 8, 2001, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) lowered its estimate of the 2000/01 orange crop in the United States. The forecast is now 11.2 million tons, a drop of 5.6 percent from the previous year. All of the decline from the January forecast is the result of a forecast lower crop in Florida, down 3 percent from last month and 4 percent from last year. In Florida, because of the below-average temperatures and precipitation all winter, fruit sizes have been and continue to be below average. Although there had been some freezing temperatures prior to January in Florida, the coldest morning affecting nearly all citrus producing areas was on January 5. The temperatures and duration led to fruit damage and loss.
The drop in Florida's 2000/01 orange crop coincides with the decline in the U.S. orange crop elsewhere, especially in California. California's 2000/01 early mid and navel crop is forecast to decline 15 percent from last year. In addition, California's valencia crop is forecast to drop 7 percent from the 1999/2000 level. According to reports, fruit set is down significantly from last year.
The European Union (EU) and Tunisia Liberalize Agricultural Trade
On January 1, 2001, the EU and Tunisia amended the trade agreement of 1998 to further liberalize agricultural trade between them.
The bilateral EU/Tunisia 1998 agreement was concluded in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean agreement. Tunisia is the first in a series of three countries (Morocco and Israel being the other two) with which the EU has concluded agricultural negotiations. The 1998 agreement provided for further liberalization of agricultural trade as of January 1, 2001. The next revision will take place in 2005.
The EU's main concession is to allow the duty-free import of 50,000 metric tons (56,000 tons in 2005) olive oil, Tunisia's main export product, which accounts for one third of the population's income. A range of other products, primarily fruit and vegetables but also sheep and goat meat, will be able to enter the EU duty free and without volume restriction. Zero-duty tariff quotas for certain items were increased by specific amounts such as: fresh oranges (35,123 tons will be increased by 3,763 tons), new potatoes (16,800 tons will be increased by1,800 tons), tomato concentrate (4,000 tons as of 2005 will be increased by 2,000 tons), apricot pulp (5,160 tons - unchanged), other mixtures of fruit (1,000 tons - unchanged) and wine (235,200 hectoliters - unchanged).
In return, Tunisia has agreed to the zero-duty import of 100,000 tons of vegetable oils (soybean, peanut, palm, sunflower, cottonseed, rapeseed, linseed and corn) which is almost equal to normal volumes of EU exports to Tunisia. Tunisia also agreed to the zero-duty import of 230,000 tons of wheat, 15,000 tons corn, 4,000 tons milled rice, 1,000 tons corn starch and 15,000 tons alfalfa. Tariffs on these products will be eliminated gradually over a period of five years.
The agreement is expected to have a negligible effect on shipments of U.S. horticultural products to the EU because Tunisia is not a large producer of many items which the United States exports.