Starting next Wednesday, Canada will join the United States in imposing new import requirements for tomatoes so its distributors can continue to export to the U.S.

At issue is a small moth that cut production, but generally speaking does not create a food safety problem.

Tomatoes imported from countries where tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) is a problem will have to be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates that the guarantee they were inspected and found free of tomato leafminer.

This is similar to the Federal Import Quarantine Order for tomato leafminer issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last Dec. 24.  It became effective on Feb. 1.

Canada’s requirements will be in place until the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) can develop more permanent measures.

Tomatoes imported to Canada from countries infested with tomato leafminer are not allowed entry into the U.S., unless they have met additional import requirements set by the U.S.

USDA is requiring that tomatoes from the following countries meet special requirements in order to enter the U.S.: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

These requirements include a phytosanitary certificate and either a declaration that the tomatoes are grown in an area free from tomato leafminer or a declaration that the tomatoes were grown in accordance with a U.S. systems approach and have been inspected and are free of the pest.

Products will not be allowed entry into the U.S. if they have been imported into Canada from the above-mentioned countries, and they do not meet these U.S. import requirements.

The new U.S. import requirements also prohibit the entry of host plants of tomato leafminer for planting (for example, Solanum spp., Datura spp. and Nicotiana spp.) from affected countries, until a Pest Risk Analysis is completed and appropriate mitigation measures are implemented.

Tomato leafminer is a small moth that primarily attacks tomato crops. It has also been reported on potato, aubergine and common beans. In many countries, tomato leafminer is considered a key insect pest because it is capable of severely damaging tomato production.

The pest cannot survive Canadian winters but it poses a high risk to greenhouse tomato cultivation in Canada and to export trade with the U.S.

Industry plays an important role in mitigating the risk of introducing this pest to Canada.

CFIA says tomatoes imported from countries where tomato leafminer is known to occur should not be brought into the vicinity of production greenhouses.

The CFIA will continue to work closely with industry to meet the new U.S. import requirements, so that Canadian importers can continue to re-export tomatoes to the U.S.