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The Chile Plague

July 21, 1999|Reuters

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A mysterious virus is expected to destroy 80% of the chile crop in southern New Mexico, the home of nearly half the chiles consumed in the United States, officials said Wednesday.

State agriculture officials said it was too early to say what impact the disease, called curly top virus, would have on consumer prices for whole chiles as well as salsa and other chile condiments.

The virus, which causes chiles to dry up and curl on the stalk, is affecting the whole range of chiles grown in southern New Mexico, from spicy jalapeno and cayenne to sweet bell peppers.

The vast majority of chiles consumed in the United States are home-grown, with 46% coming from southern New Mexico, an official said.

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