The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Three tons of citrus imported from Sicily confiscated and sent back

Sunday, 11 February 2024, 09:52 Last update: about 22 days ago

A routine inspection led to the confiscation of a large consignment of citrus fruit imported from Sicily which does not meet the established standards.

During a routine inspection conducted on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, February 10th, 2024, inspectors from the Plant Health Directorate intercepted and confiscated a significant consignment of citrus fruit imported into Malta from Sicily during the night.

This operation was carried out in collaboration with the police, where shipments of fruit brought in from Sicily via catamarans were inspected in accordance with the law. The confiscated citrus consisted of 306 crates equivalent to 3,032 kilograms of Citrus sinensis, reticulata, and lemon, which will be sent back to Sicily in the presence of inspectors from the Directorate. Additionally, the Directorate will take the necessary legal steps as provided by the Plant Quarantine Act.

Inspections are conducted to prevent the entry and spread of organisms that harm plants in Malta. Illegal trade of citrus not conforming to Maltese laws poses a risk to the Maltese agricultural industry by jeopardizing the introduction of tree and plant diseases and undermining the work of local producers.

Malta is vulnerable to the Citrus Tristeza Virus (CTV), known as citrus greening disease. This disease is among the most devastating affecting citrus trees, infecting all citrus species and varieties, causing serious damage to the citrus industry. The virus is present worldwide in citrus cultivation regions, including the Mediterranean region, leading to significant citrus tree losses in various countries such as Spain and parts of America.

To prevent the introduction of this disease into Malta, any imported citrus fruit must be free from any leaves and stems to reduce the risk of transporting insects that spread this disease. Intercepting such consignments demonstrates the government's commitment to safeguarding the interests of the Maltese agricultural sector while protecting consumers. The Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Animal Rights urges the public to report suspicious activities or unauthorized imports to the relevant authorities.

For inquiries or further information, the public is encouraged to contact the Plant Health Directorate via email at [email protected] or by phone at 22926535.

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