As the world leader in prune exports, the California Prune Board is preemptively addressing issues that affect the trade of dried fruits and nuts with a three-year project focused on preserving the use of sulfuryl fluoride. With the support of the Foreign Agriculture Services arm of USDA, the California Prune Board (CPB) has secured funding to lead a Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program titled “Preserving sulfuryl fluoride for dried fruit exports to the European Union.”
“This project hits on all the major non-tariff barriers,” says Gary Obenauf, CPB Production Research Coordinator and lead on the TASC project. “Exports of nuts and dried fruits require reliable measures that ensure consumers around the world are receiving a safe product and this project is paramount in gathering the information needed, enabling California Prunes and other commodities to retain and expand export markets.”
While the project specifically investigates the voids in residue data associated with the use of sulfuryl fluoride for treating U.S. dried fruit and tree nuts, the research ultimately addresses the stringent criteria to limit emissions for continued and optimal sulfuryl fluoride use in all export markets for a variety of commodities. The study is being conducted by top experts in their fields from Stanford, Yale, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), University of California, and DFA of California.
“Global trade interest in eliminating greenhouse gas emissions is growing, and we’re getting asked about sulfuryl fluoride use in several markets,” stated Spencer Walse, a research chemist for ARS. “This project provides an opportunity to continue sulfuryl fluoride use globally and preserves the quality of products while maintaining food safety and security. If we don’t protect the use of sulfuryl fluoride, the ability to export to various countries, including the EU, diminishes.”
With new use patterns that need to be reflected globally, efficacy data is generated for market access into new export opportunities. Many countries, including India and Australia, require residue data to accompany the efficacy data to ensure consumer safety.
“We studied methyl bromide decades ago and found the use patterns didn’t apply, so we had to adapt for sulfuryl fluoride,” added Obenauf. “This project allows us to update regulatory use patterns which have evolved since we started this work.”
Phytosanitary techniques are vital to the export industry. The benefits of updating regulatory information through this research and gaining data on sulfuryl fluoride scrubbing extend far past the dried fruit and nut industries and will allow continued use of the gas globally.
California is the world’s largest producer of prunes providing approximately 40 percent of the world’s supply and over 90 percent of the U.S. supply. Today, there are more than 40,000 bearing acres of California Prune orchards concentrated in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.