The Almond Board continues to follow the changing landscape for international pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs) and provide resources for growers, PCAs and handlers as they plan pest management strategies on almonds destined for key export markets.

Given that the majority of California Almonds are exported to some 90 countries around the world, it is important growers and pest control advisers consider MRLs in potential export markets when making pest management decisions.

These MRLs are often a moving target, with changing regulations in various markets combined with increased testing abroad by key countries. While newly registered products in California offer excellent selective pest control options at home, use of these products may be limited by international MRL issues in markets abroad.

Some markets still rely on U.S. tolerances (e.g., Mexico) or international MRL standards set by CODEX (e.g., UAE), but markets are shifting to a positive list, where the country establishes its own MRLs for each crop/compound. Hong Kong and Korea are making that shift, which means existing MRLs may be changed or deleted, and new compounds will need an MRL established by the national authorities before imports with those residues are permitted.

Often, there is a significant lag between the time new compounds are registered in the U.S. and California, and when MRL tolerances are established for the compounds in international markets. Japan will not start the process of reviewing new MRLs until the compounds are fully registered in the U.S., which often leads to a year or two lag between the time a pesticide is registered for use in the U.S. and cleared for use on almonds imported into Japan. Other countries, such as Taiwan, are facing pressure from their own grower communities to direct regulatory resources to their own pesticide registration needs.

As a result, the establishment of MRLs for agricultural imports is placed at a lower priority, leading to a dearth of established import MRLs. And then there is the EU, with its habit of setting extremely low MRLs. The Almond Board continues to track changing policies related to international MRLs by attending the Codex Committee for Pesticide Residues, monitoring notifications sent out by USDA FAS, and commenting when necessary. The Almond Board’s outreach effort to registrants has helped to ensure that almonds or tree nuts are included in their international MRL submissions.