Capital Press

California officials say a translation gaffe shouldn't result in any immediate impact to the state's citrus industry.

During the first week in November, a well-known website in Argentina translated a California Department of Food and Agriculture press release addressing the state's efforts to keep the dreaded citrus disease Huanglongbing (HLB) out of the state.

One problem: The translated version's headline said California had confirmed HLB's presence.

Huanglongbing attacks trees, spoiling the taste and appearance of their fruit before killing them. With no known cure, it has devastated much of Florida's citrus industry, and it had similar effects in Brazil and India. It has shown up in North Carolina and Louisiana.

All of which puts officials in California, and any importer of the state's fruit, on edge. The erroneous news spanned the globe within hours.

"It literally got lost in translation," said Mike Jarvis, CDFA's communications director. The agency distributed a counter-release and provided its own Spanish translation.

"It just goes to show you, when you're dealing with international situations and different languages, one small thing can be a problem," Jarvis said.

Questionable information has in the past caused countries to suspend importation of commodities, Jarvis said. Australia is the only country currently restricting California citrus imports, a precautionary measure that applies to fruit grown within the state's various quarantine areas for the Asian citrus psyllid, the only insect known to carry HLB.

"Countries may take precautionary measures in case we could have it," said Bob Wynn, coordinator of CDFA's Pierce's Disease Control Program.

That's despite the fact that the disease travels on plant parts, and therefore would accompany fruit only if stems and leaves were still attached, Wynn said.

No quarantines have so far been implemented in the Central Valley. The citrus psyllid has appeared in the past few months only around parts of Southern California.

But in July, dogs found dead psyllids in luggage at a FedEx terminal in Fresno. Before that, the bug had never been detected in the Central Valley, where the bulk of the state's citrus grows. The luggage had come from India, and one insect tested positive for HLB.

In Texas, the psyllid first showed up eight years ago, but HLB has yet to be detected there.

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