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Photo provided by the Argentine president's office showing president Mauricio Macri (C) during a visit to a lemon packing plant in Tucuman, Argentina, April 18, 2018. EPA-EFE/Presidencia Argentina
Photo provided by the Argentine president's office showing president Mauricio Macri (C) during a visit to a lemon packing plant in Tucuman, Argentina, April 18, 2018. EPA-EFE/Presidencia Argentina

Argentina exports lemons to U.S. for first time in 17 years

Prior to last year, Argentina had been requesting an authorization to export lemons to the U.S. market since 2008.

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Argentina sent its first shipment of lemons to the United States in 17 years, a few months after President Donald Trump authorized citrus imports from that South American nation.

"Let's send off the first truck, which will carry our produce to our brothers in the United States," Argentine President Mauricio Macri said during an event in the northern lemon-growing province of Tucuman.

Argentina had been requesting an authorization to export lemons to the U.S. market since 2008, after a ban on Argentine citrus was established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Sept. 2001 due to plant pests and diseases in the South American nation.

After a long negotiation, in 2016 the administration of then-President Barack Obama removed the ban, although that decision was overturned by Donald Trump a few weeks after being sworn in as President.

Last August, the U.S. president finally authorized lemon imports from Argentina.

The first shipment, however, had to wait until the harvest, which just recently began.

The first truck, carrying 30 tons of high-quality lemons, left Wednesday from Tucuman toward the port of Rosario, from where the fruit will be shipped to the United States.

"The quality of Tucuman lemons is outstanding. We were able to access the U.S. market through hard work and with the help national and provincial institutions, as well as the private sector," Roberto Sanchez Loria, president of the Tucuman Citrus Association, said.

According to information from the Tucuman provincial government, Argentina is the world's largest producer and exporter of lemons, with a yearly output of 1.5 million tons.

Tucuman produces 84 percent of Argentine lemons, and citrus exports provide the province with $800 million in revenue per year.

"Today is a historic day because it marks a before and after. Today, the 50,000 people that work in the lemon industry can renew their hopes for a better future," Tucuman Gov. Juan Manzur said.

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