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U.S. to allow lemon imports from northwest Argentina

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it will lift the ban on lemons from northwestern Argentina on May 26, allowing lemon imports from the top producing region for the first time in 16 years.
In December, the USDA said it would lift the ban which was originally put in place following complaints by California lemon producers that the Argentine lemons carried diseases.  Argentine farmers say they have complied with all U.S. regulations and deny there are sanitary problems with their fruit.

California produces more than 90% of the lemons grown in the U.S. — 1.5 billion pounds last year — and competes with imports from Chile and Mexico, according to the USDA.

Chile and Mexico account for about 94% of lemon imports to the U.S., which have more than doubled in dollar value in the last five years, according to the USDA.

Argentina produces about 1.5 million metric tons of lemons a year, of which 95% are exported. Its main market is the European union, and its top growing region is in northwest Tucuman, about 800 miles north of Buenos Aires.