May 1, 2017 / 10:52 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-USDA says no more delays to rule allowing Argentina lemon imports

(Adds details on Trump meeting with Macri, background on ban)

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, May 1 (Reuters) - A U.S. rule allowing lemon imports from Argentina’s main producing region for the first time in 16 years will take effect this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday, days after President Donald Trump said he was reviewing his administration’s stance on the matter.

In December, the USDA, under then-President Barack Obama, said it would lift a ban on Argentine imports from the country’s northwest, giving growers in the world’s top lemon producer access to the largest consuming market.

Following Trump’s inauguration in January, the agency issued a 60-day stay on the decision and then extended the stay another 60 days.

The USDA will not extend the stay again, according to a statement. It said the rule allowing imports would take effect when the stay expires on May 26.

The United States instituted its ban in 2001 amid concerns from citrus farmers in California that the Argentine fruit carried diseases that could hurt their crops. The state produces about 90 percent of U.S. lemons.

The USDA said Argentine lemons would only be imported into the Northeastern United States for 2017 and 2018.

The agency proposed the new rule last year as U.S. relations warmed with Argentina, following the election of market-friendly President Mauricio Macri.

Trump said during a White House event with Macri last week that he knew “all about the lemons.”

“One of the reasons he’s here is about lemons,” Trump said. “I’ll tell him about North Korea and he’ll tell me about lemons.”

Trump added he would give the issue “serious consideration.

Unblocking imports may provide a boost to San Miguel , Argentina’s top lemon exporter.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe in Washington; Editing by G Crosse and Peter Cooney

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