Quarantine rule lifted for Hawaii’s avocados

HONOLULU – Guacamole connoisseurs around the U.S. will soon have a new domestic avocado to try – not from California or Florida, but Hawaii.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is changing its rules for Hawaii growers to allow them to ship Sharwil avocados to 32 mainland U.S. states from November to March.

The shipments will help give shoppers an option to buy domestic avocados during winter months, when most grocery stores stock avocados from Mexico instead.

Sharwil avocados are different from the Haas variety popular in many grocery stores. Sharwil avocados are larger, often rounder, and still hard to the touch when they’re ripe. But fans of the fruit in Hawaii tout them as superior to Haas in taste.

The move was praised Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who said Hawaii’s federal lawmakers have been pushing for the rule change since 1992.

Hirono and the state’s other members of Congress sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in April urging him to change quarantine rules that effectively suspended shipping of Sharwils to the mainland in 1992, when a fruit fly larvae was found in a packing house in Hawaii.

Since then, scientists studied shipping protocols and found the avocados are poor hosts for fruit flies, the lawmakers said in the letter.

“With this approach, the risks of accidental introduction of oriental fruit flies to the U.S. mainland are practically nonexistent,” the letter said.

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