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Enticed by the cheap prices of fruit, I tried to take some back with me to the US from the Dominican Republic. I declared it. Sure enough I was sent straight to the Agriculture line.

  • my two Guanabana were thrown out immediately on sight
  • my dozen or so guava into the trash as well
  • cinnamon posed no difficulty whatsoever
  • sugar cane there was a question of how it was packaged; passed
  • packaged supermarket coffee (from outside) no question

For reference my entry point was San Juan, Puerto Rico which receives a few international flights and I was arriving from Dominican Republic.

Specific rules from CBP looked rather complicated but I did find Travelers bringing food into the U.S. for personal use. While raw fruit is obviously out of bounds, there was this passage:

Coffee - roasted or unroasted if there is no pulp attached. (USDA Miscellaneous and Processed Products Manual, Table 3-48)

Spices most dried spices are allowed except for orange, lemon, lime and other citrus leaves and seeds, lemongrass, and many vegetable and fruit seeds

Fruits and Vegetables Travelers may check the general admissibility of fruits and vegetables by consulting APHIS's FAVIR database.... Every fruit or vegetable must be declared to a CBP Agriculture Specialist or CBP Officer and must be presented for inspection - regardless of its admissibility status. Fresh fruits and vegetables need to be clean and may be prohibited if they have insects or diseases.

Doesn't my fruit get inspected then? Why was my fruit just thrown out?

Maybe because I do not have a permit? My guess is individuals can't get permits unless they are like grocery store owners or something. My supermarket routinely has avocado from the Dominican Republic. However... this is personal use not resale

My hope was that since I was traveling between two Caribbean countries, there would be no problem exchanging fruit. Since the islands were so similar. Additionally, there is USDA inspection for travel outside of Puerto Rico. So I don't see what the issue is.

Lastly

Canned goods and goods in vacuum packed jars (other than those containing meat or poultry products) for your personal use

Is vacuum packing it myself OK?


Sorry for this lengthy discussion. I just found it very interesting could by a large size guanabana for $10 in Puerto Rico and for $1 in Dominican Republic. These seem to be unavailable in the United States.

REMARK Fresh fruit seems to require a permit and follow the special packing procedures. What about canning or vacuum packing for personal use?

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My guess (and only that) is that the Guanabana (soursop) was tossed due to something related to this FDA alert – CGCampbell Feb 24 at 12:47
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@CGCampbell: That only seems to deal with juices & drinks, not the fruit itself. The seeds are toxic, and if they get into the juice you have problems. But the same is true of apricots, cherries, and plums. – Michael Seifert Feb 24 at 14:39
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I've always understood the reason for banning certain fresh fruits is to prevent insects and other pests from hitching a ride unseen and being then introduced to the new country. That's why dried and pre-packaged foods are allowed. Your intent to resell or not is not the issue. – David K Feb 24 at 22:24

You fruit WAS inspected. You showed it to the customs officials, they inspected it, determined what it was, determined that it was not allowed without a permit (as per https://epermits.aphis.usda.gov/) and thus confiscated/destroyed it.

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That link just takes me to a login page. Can you summarise the relevant rules around what is and isn't allowed without a permit? – user568458 Feb 25 at 14:15

Concerning fruits and vegetables: here's the USDA's page on how to get a permit. The form itself is here (PDF), and doesn't even seem to require a fee. The usual processing time is 30 days.

However, a permit probably wouldn't have helped you. The USDA's Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Manual (PDF, 500+ pages) lists which fruits and vegetables can be imported from which countries. It appears that guanabana/soursop can only be imported from Grenada (and then only as a commercial shipment); and guava fruits can only be imported from Bermuda and Mexico (and only as commercial shipments from the latter.) Anything that is not explicitly listed in the manual appears to be barred completely.

If it's any consolation, the permit would have let you import durian, mangosteen, and pineapple, among other things. Whether you want to have a durian in your luggage is another story.

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The manual on page 3-6 suggests that annona spp (leaf) is OK. That is guanabana. As well as a various Yams, Genip ("quenepa"). Aloe doesn't require any license. – john mangual Feb 24 at 15:32
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Fair point. But that specifically refers to the leaves, not the fruit; and you would need to apply for a permit to import those. Guava leaves also appear to be importable from the Dominican Republic (again, with a permit). – Michael Seifert Feb 24 at 16:24

My experience is all over the place.

At airports, many times I have mentioned "apples and bananas" and passed without further questions.

At land crossings: I remember the border in Montana, where oranges were allowed, but not their peels. The lady explicitly say she had to destroy them; my kids have been laughing at that for years. Coming from the South, we have had a (single) mango confiscated. One time they took all our fruit. Another one, the lady said "you guys will surely eat all this on your way to Canada, won't you? " and she let us keep it all.

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