Agri Business

Beetle menace forces US toban rice carried in air baggage

T.E. Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on September 25, 2011

Price of cheapest variety in Atlanta is three times that in India

Atlanta-based Ms Lakshmi Soundarjan's first reaction to the recent US ban on import of rice in air baggage was a howl of “ayyo” (alas!). She visits India twice a year and in return takes back nearly 30 kg of rice.

But this time she cannot carry rice as luggage following a recent ban by the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), which notified a new phytosanitary regulation for the entry of rice from various countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The restriction was on commercial and non-commercial shipments of rice into the US from countries where the Khapra Beetle (Trogoderma granarium) is prevalent. Non-commercial quantities are defined as amounts of rice for personal use and not for resale, including those transported in international passenger baggage.

The Indian Customs too recently issued a circular asking people not to carry rice in air baggage.

Ms Lakshmi says the cheapest rice variety in Atlanta is $13.99 (Sona masoori) while it costs one third in India. “Whenever our friends come from India, we ask them to bring rice and dhal, lentils, tamarind and spices. We can save some dollars,” she said.

Bugging problem

The Khapra Beetle is a cause for concern in the US. This calendar year, the US Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists around the country have made over 158 Khapra Beetle interceptions. The interceptions were made in the passenger, air and sea cargo environment in eleven CBP field offices, including Detroit – where there is a large population of Asians, especially Indians.

The Khapra Beetle is one of the world's most-destructive pests infesting stored products.

Controlling the pest's menace is difficult as it feeds on a variety of dried materials, is resistant to insecticides, and can go long periods without food. Infestations can result in up to 70 per cent grain damage, making products inedible and unmarketable.

In 2005 and 2006, Khapra Beetle interceptions at US ports of entry were three to six per year. The number began to increase in 2007 and for the next three years, CBP interceptions nationwide averaged 15 per year. So far in 2011, as of August, ports of entry in the Detroit Field Office, Detroit Land, Detroit Air, Port Huron and Sault Ste Marie, have made seven confirmed interceptions with another five awaiting final identification and confirmation from USDA identifiers.

US media recently reported that a dead Khapra Beetle larva was found inside a shipment of rice recently delivered to the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex, prompting federal authorities to immediately send the consignment back to India.

Published on September 25, 2011

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