Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
APHIS works to protect the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources. APHIS International Services (IS) supports this mission in an international environment by: (1) safeguarding the health of animals, plants, and ecosystems in the United States; (2) facilitating safe agricultural trade; (3) ensuring effective and efficient management of internationally-based programs; and (4) investing in international capacity-building through various training programs abroad to enhance technical, administrative, and diplomatic skills and competencies. APHIS' international mission is to protect and promote U.S. agricultural health through internationally-based animal and plant health expertise. APHIS has also been designated by the Secretary of Agriculture to take the lead in international standard setting organization activities which are involved in animal (sanitary) and plant health (phytosanitary) issues and APHIS-IS helps to fulfill this role.
The APHIS-IS area office in Costa Rica covers the whole Central American Region including Panama.
*Note to traveler: Please do not carry plants, plant products and/or fresh animal products into/from the United States since those can carry harmful pests and/or diseases, the product could be seized, you could be eligible for a monetary fine and/or subject to federal charges. If you must take agricultural products into/from the US please declare them upon arrival and the Customs Agent will decide whether the product is enterable or not.
Good Export Season of U.S. agricultural products: Historically, Costa Rica has not offered quarantine fumigation as a less restrictive measure for agricultural commodities that are intercepted with quarantine pests, leaving product destruction or return to origin, as the only two highly restrictive options for U.S. exporters. For the past two+ years, APHIS has been negotiating with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) a change in the operating procedures for them to allow the quarantine fumigation of intercepted commodities. Last year Costa Rica finally agreed to this, allowing containers intercepted with quarantine pests to be fumigated at Costa Rican ports of entry. APHIS-IS in conjunction with FAS, organized a Quarantine Fumigation Seminar to assist the Costa Ricans in applying proper fumigation techniques (see FAS link in Embassy website) and as a result, only one container was rejected during the peak export season 2011 (due to the lack of a quarantine treatment for that specific pest). Loss of U.S. product due to rejections at Costa Rican ports in 2010 was over $750,000.
APHIS-IS works around reduced APHIS budget to keep Animal Surveillance Program active: APHIS-IS Costa Rica and SENASA have been contacting organizations and Ministries in an effort to prevent the closure of the surveillances programs and maintain our field inspectors in the Cooperative Animal Health Surveillance Program (see below). In Costa Rica, the Cooperative Animal Health Surveillance Program has come to an agreement with the Costa Rican Cattlemen’s Association (CORFOGA) to carry out the National Livestock Census and they will pick up all of the costs for the Program’s field inspector’s salaries, per diem, and program costs. The plan is that that will provide time for SENASA to increase their user fees to a level allowing the Cooperative Surveillance Program to continue.
Cooperative Animal Health Surveillance Program
Ever since 1972, when USDA/APHIS signed an International Agreement with Costa Rica to prevent the introduction of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease and other foreign livestock diseases, APHIS and Costa Rica have been cooperating to ensure APHIS’ motto of “Protecting American Agriculture”. The FMD Program was instituted to ensure that FMD did not move north from South America where it was endemic. In 1993, APHIS and the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) signed a Cooperative Agreement to jointly eradicate the screwworm fly from Costa Rica. Sterile flies were dispersed from airplanes to mate with the wild screwworm flies to break the lifecycle. Additionally, field inspectors on the ground visited all livestock producers to garner their cooperation in the eradication of screwworms. Screwworms were officially eradicated in 2000 and the FMD and Screwworm Programs became the Cooperative Prevention and Surveillance Program for foreign livestock diseases. The Program still maintains a field force of 13 inspectors and a Chief of Field Operations, now within SENASA, who visit livestock producers teaching them good biosecurity practices, investigating suspicious outbreaks and taking diagnostic samples, and carrying out diagnostic surveys for a variety of livestock diseases, such as FMD, Avian Influenza (AI), Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), classical swine fever (CSF), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease), and a number of others.
Clean Stock Program
Costa Rica’s main agricultural priority under CAFTA is to gain market access for plants over 18 inches tall to the United States. However, at the time of the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Costa Rica’s pest interceptions in ornamental plant shipments were very high. USDA/APHIS and MAG agreed to work together to establish a pilot program that would effectively reduce the amount of pest interceptions at U.S. ports of entry, while working in the regulation framework that would eventually allow Costa Rica to access the ornamental plant market for plants over 18 inches tall. The pilot program was a success and is now being implemented industry wide. APHIS has also recently published the proposed rule for allowing Dracaena spp plants over 18 inches tall to be imported into the United States and hopes to publish the final rule in 2012. This rule will allow Costa Rica to be the first country in the world to access the U.S. market with plants over 18 inches tall.
Pepper & Tomato System Approach
The pepper and tomato Systems Approach Program was designed to allow market access to Central America, while protecting U.S. agriculture from quarantine pests and diseases. APHIS supervises all activities related to fruit fly trapping, greenhouse condition, quarantine pests, packing facilities and export certification. Since the beginning of this program Costa Rica has sporadically exported tomatoes (from Zarcero) to the U.S.
APHIS Inspectors are in charge of the inspection and certification of mango imports from Costa Rica to the United States. An APHIS inspector is permanently assigned during the mango season at the only packing facility allowed to export mangoes from Costa Rica and he/she directly supervises the hot water immersion treatment. Hot water immersion treatment (also called hydrothermal treatment) uses heated water to raise the temperature of the commodity to the required temperature for a specified period of time. This is used primarily for fruits that are hosts of fruit flies to kill any larva that may be present.
Pest Detection: Quarantine pests under surveillance in Central America
Tomato Leafminer (Tuta absoluta): The tomato leafminer is a neotropical oligophagous pest of solanaceous crops (Lietti et al., 2005). It is native to South America (Urbaneja et al., 2007). The fruits can be attacked as soon as they are formed. Affected fruit lose their commercial value. Since its introduction into Europe in 2006, Tuta absoluta has continued to spread rapidly through the European and Mediterranean regions where it is a serious pest of field and greenhouse grown tomatoes. Tuta absoluta is “the major limiting factor for tomato production in South America” (Ferrara et al., 2001). Without adequate controls, infestations of T. absoluta can result in 90 to 100 percent loss of field-produced tomatoes in Chile (Estay, 2000; Vargas, 1970). More Information (pdf - 1.2mb)
Giant African Snail (Lissachatina fulica): Scientists consider the giant African snail to be one of the most damaging snails in the world. It is known to eat at least 500 different types of plants, including breadfruit, cassava, cocoa, papaya, peanut, rubber, and most varieties of beans, peas, cucumbers, and melons. Believed to be originally from East Africa, L. fulica has established itself throughout the IndoPacific Basin, including the Hawaiian island. This mollusk has also been introduced to the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Recently, L. fulica infestations were detected on Saint Lucia and Barbados. The island of Saint Martin has been infested since 1995. It is believed that the Dutch side, Saint Maarten, became infested shortly thereafter. Giant African Snail has also been found in several South American areas and is moving towards the Central American region. The latest detection was in Venezuela. More information
Anastrepha grandis The South American cucurbit fruit fly, Anastrepha grandis (Macquart), which exists in several South American countries, attacks watermelon and other fruits of the family Cucurbitaceae. Once a pest of minor to moderate importance generally; in recent years it has become rather important. This species is potentially of great economic importance in Florida and southern Texas should it ever be introduced there. A. grandis has sporadically been detected in Panama for the past three years; however, it has been confined to a non-commercial production area in the Darien near the border with Colombia. APHIS-IS provides technical expertise and trapping donations to this program with the objective of avoiding the spread of this pest through Central America and eventually reaching the United States.
Highlighted and upcoming Events
Facility for shipping peppers to the US begins operations
Costa Rica has opened a new facility for shipping peppers to the United States in Buenos Aires, Puntarenas. APHIS in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture certified the new facility´s operations and APHIS directly supervised the first shipment. This company comes as a new source of employment to a resource deprived region.
Mango SeasonMango season concluded the last week of March. Although the season was shorter than expected, APHIS pre-cleared and certified 97 containers (approximately 461000 mango boxes) for importation into the United States.
Pitahaya Market AccessThe US will in the near future grant market access for pitahaya imported from Costa Rica to the United States under APHIS´s supervision. This request is in the process of final rule publication.