In advance of the Día de los Muertos holiday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminded the traveling public this week that they are prohibited from bringing certain agricultural items used in holiday decorations into the United States.
That’s because some items may carry harmful pests and disease, such as the citrus greening disease, which can be devastating to America’s citrus industry, the agency said.
“As we approach the Día de los Muertos holiday, let’s work together as a community and not bring prohibited citrus or greenery when transiting through the Arizona ports to prevent citrus greening from gaining a devastating foothold in our country’s agriculture,” said Guadalupe Ramirez, Jr., director of field operations for CBP’s Tucson Field Office, in a news release issued Wednesday.
Ornamental greenery used in some Día de los Muertos altars, such as pine boughs or murraya (orange jasmine), are prohibited from entry. Murraya is a host plant for the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, an insect that can carry citrus greening disease, CBP said.
Citrus greening, also known as “huanglongbing,” is a disease caused by a bacterium that can infect most citrus varieties and some ornamental plants. According to the USDA, the disease has seriously affected citrus production in India, Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
Citrus fruit including oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes can’t be brought through the ports of entry. Other popular fruits that also are prohibited include guavas, mangoes, peaches and pomegranates.
Cut flowers or potted plants known as Chrysanthemum sp. (mums/margaritas) are also sometimes used to construct Día de los Muertos altars. But according to CBP, they can carry a disease known as chrysanthemum white rust, which can be harmful to U.S. production and health of chrysanthemums.
Failure to declare prohibited agricultural items at U.S. ports of entries can result in fines up to $1,000, or more than $250,000 for commercial importations.