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Christmas Trees Face Bug Check

November 13, 2005|Ioan Grillo | Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY — Mexico is stepping up control over imports of U.S. and Canadian Christmas trees to avoid foreign plant bugs, the Environmental Department said Friday.

About 100 inspectors will be posted along Mexico's 2,000-mile border with the United States, scrutinizing the leaves and branches of the 800,000 Christmas trees expected to flow south this season, said Hector Gonzalez, assistant attorney general of natural resources.

"We have to protect our rich forests and woodlands from exotic plagues," Gonzalez said. Any trees found with disease will be turned back or burned.

Officials said they were particularly concerned about plants with infections of Gypsy Moths and Pine Shoot Beetles.

Last Christmas, border inspectors said they found a truckload of 800 trees from Clackamas, Ore., that were infected with a stem weevil known by the Latin name Cylindrocopturus.

Some U.S. growers say Mexico's inspections are unnecessary because of rigid U.S. controls.

Mexico's own blossoming Christmas tree market is worth an estimated $500 million.

About 40% of the trees sold here are grown by an increasing number of government-subsidized Mexican producers.

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