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Nogales produce industry defends against tomato virus

No threat to humans; tomatoes and peppers only
Posted at 6:59 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 20:59:36-05

NOGALES, Ariz. - An Arizona industry that employs thousands of people and puts food on your table -- is preparing for a disease threat.

Mexican Tomato season is gearing up and millions of dollars worth of tomatoes will come through the port of entry in Nogales. But the threat of a tomato virus will lead to extra inspections there.

Tomatoes grown in Mexico and distributed from Nogales are a major industry that University of Arizona says has a huge economic impact.

Now the US Department of Agriculture is warning growers and importers to be on guard against a new plant disease, the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus.

It's appeared in nine countries in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The virus is a threat to tomatoes and peppers but not to people.

The leaves curl up and the fruit discolors and blisters.

Lance Jungmeyer of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas says farmers know if they see the signs they'll have to clear out anything the virus may have touched.

"You have to go in and sanitize the whole area and destroy all the infected plants and that's what's going on."

Jungmeyer says to guard against the virus spreading, cargo inspections at the Mexico-US Border will include an extra emphasis at looking for signs of the virus in tomatoes and peppers coming in.

He says the extra precautions should not drive down supplies or drive up the price you pay in the stores.

"We're seeing there will be plenty of supplies available from Mexico and right now it's a matter of making sure the farmers are getting the right certificates with this, they'll get the right signatures and the inspections at the border are going on.">

And those inspections should help protect the health of a produce industry that adds millions to a healthy economy in southern Arizona.