A temporary halt to US citrus imports is not expected to affect retail fruit supplies, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.

Imports were halted by Biosecurity New Zealand after fruit fly larvae were found in a single orange during a routine inspection of a consignment from California on April 8.

“The hold will be in place until Biosecurity NZ determines an appropriate treatment. We expect it will only be a few days until currently imported consignments can be released,” MPI said. 

“The treatment will also be applied to anything currently on its way to New Zealand from USA. The USA has agreed to not ship any further consignments until we have negotiated new import requirements.”

New Zealand has imported almost 5,900 tonnes of citrus from the US so far this year. MPI noted the trade was already dropping off with the end of the US season and local fruit is available.

“This means the hold is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the supply of citrus to New Zealand consumers.”

New Zealand’s 320 citrus growers produce about 30,500 tonnes of fruit annually – 90 percent of which comes from Gisborne and Northland. Mandarins and oranges, with sales of $24 million and $15 million respectively, dominate their domestic sales worth about $56 million a year, according to Citrus New Zealand data. Another $11 million of fruit is exported.

The larvae discovered this week was of the spotted wing drosophila – a fly not normally associated with citrus. They are native to India, Korea, Japan and much of South-East Asia and are also found across much of North America and Western Europe.

Biosecurity NZ says they are a particular risk as they can lay eggs in fresh fruit before it is picked and can damage berries, stonefruit and grapes.

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