Change in fumigation protocol would benefit Peruvian asparagus
Conversations with a half dozen U.S. handlers of Peruvian asparagus revealed that they are excited about ongoing talks with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that could eliminate the need to fumigate the product at its U.S. port of entry.
Currently, the USDA protocol requires all Peruvian asparagus to be fumigated once it has been unloaded from its mode of transportation, be it an airplane or ocean liner. Fumigation of Peruvian asparagus has been a U.S. import requirement since 2001. But this summer, the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service and Peru’s National Agricultural Health Service (SENASA Peru) met to discuss technical aspects related to the protocol for the export of fresh asparagus to this country without fumigation.
As a result, a draft Pest Risk Analysis was released by APHIS and a public comment period followed. Priscilla Lleras, director of the Peruvian Asparagus Importers Association, played it close to the vest when discussing the progress on those talks. “We are in constant communication with the regulatory agencies,” she said. “We are collaboratively discussing various issues and look forward to doing what’s best for asparagus and U.S. consumers.”
Peru’s government agency and some importers were a bit less reserved as they discussed the potential outcome of eliminating fumigation. In July, José Carrasco, general director of Senasa, said the industry was looking forward to the elimination of the fumigation by January of 2023. He said a less intrusive protocol will extend the shelf life of asparagus in the United States and save Peruvian exporters a $100 million in fumigation costs.
Walter Yager, president of Alpine Fresh and an active member of PAIA, believes the elimination of the fumigation protocol will give a boost to the asparagus industry as it will allow for the delivery of a better product to the U.S. consumer. He said it will also allow Peruvian exporters to expand their value-added offerings and produce those packs at point of origin rather than in the United States, which is more costly.
Yager said the key to eliminating the fumigation protocol is that it is not replaced with severe restrictions that will also harm the quality of the product.
Charlie Eagle vice president of business development for Southern Specialties, another major importer of Peruvian asparagus, pointed to the fact that organic asparagus from Peru will be able to be marketed in the United States if the fumigation requirement is dropped. Of course, fumigation eliminates the potential that the asparagus can be sold as organic even if it is grown, packaged and shipped in Peru with organic certification status.
Square One Farms President Tim Ryan also weighed in on the subject, discussing the potential for Peru’s organic asparagus to come to the U.S. market. “While nowhere near the same volume as conventional, organic asparagus is very important for the industry,” he said, adding that his company sources organic asparagus from Mexico.