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Posted Friday, July 6, 2007
Fruit flies prompt U.S. to block Haiti mango exports
By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 5 (Reuters) - The United States halted mango imports from Haiti and returned 50 shipping containers of the tropical fruit to Haitian exporters after discovering fruit flies in crates sent from the Caribbean nation, officials from both governments said on Thursday.

Haiti's agriculture secretary, Joanas Gue, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended the certification of all Haitian mango exporting companies to allow its agents time to review treatment and packaging procedures.

"The USDA has blocked exports of our mango which is one of our leading and most appreciated exporting products," Gue told Reuters on Thursday. "This will badly hurt our exporting companies."

Haiti ships several million dollars worth of the tropical fruit to the United States each year.

U.S. agents discovered fruit flies and their larvae on June 25 and on Monday in shipments of mangoes from three facilities in Haiti, where mangoes are supposed to be washed with hot water to ensure fruit flies are killed.

"We suspended the program on July 2, because the failure of the hot water treatment in three different facilities indicates it is a larger problem rather than an isolated event," USDA spokeswoman Melissa O'Dell told Reuters.

She said the USDA was sending experts to Haiti to review treatment and packaging procedures before considering resumption of mango imports.

Haitian officials said the insects came from the United States in an empty shipping container. They said Haitian exporters, who operate under supervision of USDA agents based in Haiti, had fully followed agreed procedures and regulations.

In addition to returning the 50 containers to Haitian exporters, the United States blocked the shipment of more than 40,000 boxes containing at least a dozen mangoes per box.

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