Food banks restrict donations amid citrus greening disease concerns

FOX 10's Linda Williams reports.

- It's called the citrus greening disease and it will destroy fruit on the tree and then eventually kill the tree. The pest has been discovered in seven counties in the western and southern parts of Arizona, including Maricopa.

The quarantine is in the western part of the county, so why bring citrus that might carry the pest deeper into the valley -- you try not to.

Tiny pests -- the Asian citrus psyllid is causing gigantic headaches for valley citrus growers and St. Mary's Food Bank announced it is suspending drop off citrus donations from valley residents.

The fear is the psyllid will spread disease that kills citrus trees, so the new catch phrase by the Department of Agriculture in Arizona is "Do not move citrus."

"We just can't bring citrus from all areas because we do have psyllids in Sun City area, west valley.. we don't want fruit from Sun City to be moved to a different area," said Brian Blake of Whitfill Nurseries.

The disease that kills citrus trees is not here says Blake, who farms citrus trees outside the valley.  The pest that can spread it is here.

"When we have harvest citrus, we cut all the greens and stems off to make sure we don't have insects transported around the state," he said.

What about the citrus trees across the valley neighborhoods? Tim Hungate says he uses the citrus for juicing and now is a little worried.

"I look forward to that every year, the way prices are on juice, that's not good."

Blake adds, "You can still juice, in fact it's a great question, even if the tree had disease, it doesn't hurt the quality of the fruit you're going to eat at home. It's completely safe."

The citrus is safe to leave on the tree.

For people asking what do I do with my citrus now, St. Mary's will be gleaning. Call 602-343-5658 or go to FirstFoodBank.org to make reservations and pick trees. There is a $20 to $25 fee, depending on the size of the tree.

First Food Bank Alliance is asking you to register and they will determine whether they will take your food or not -- making sure it is not from a quarantined area.
 

 


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