Federal officials have banned all shipments of citrus to the United States from a region of Morocco that sent Mediterranean fruit flies to the Port of Philadelphia at Camden two weeks ago.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has called the medfly "one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests," since its larvae destroy many varieties of fruits and vegetable crops.
On Friday, the Philadelphia office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security circulated an order of the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), saying it had "prohibited the importation of tangerines, clementines, mandarins, and sweet oranges from the Berkane region" of Morocco.
That followed discovery by customs inspectors of one live larva and multiple dead larvae in a shipment of 105,000 crates of clementines shipped to Camden from Berkane on Dec. 14.
The ban, issued Dec. 23, applies to all ports in the U.S. until further notice.
The DHS, of which Customs and Border Protection is a part, reported the discovery Thursday.
Kevin Donohue, acting director of the Port of Philadelphia, called it "an extremely important find," since medflies can devastate some of the most important produce grown commercially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including peaches, tomatoes, bell peppers, and melons.
California has spent millions of dollars since 1975 to control major medfly outbreaks, including $40 million in 1981 and $60 million in 1989.
The ban allowed any shipments of citrus already traveling by water from Berkane to proceed, provided the shippers can demonstrate they took all necessary precautions against medflies, which normally do not survive refrigeration.
All will be subject to close inspection on their arrival, the order stipulates.
The embargo on citrus from Berkane applies to "all importation and movement, including commercial and noncommercial cargo, passenger baggage, international mail, and express courier shipments."
"This prohibition will remain until APHIS and Morocco's national plant protection organization investigate and take necessary actions to mitigate the pest risk," APHIS said.