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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Entomologist Gives Chile Shipping Advice

LAS CRUCES -- Now that the 1998 chile crop is maturing, grocery stores, farmers' markets and roadside stands are filling up with the pungent pods. This may satisfy appetites of local chile heads, but friends and relatives living out of state often don't want to miss out.

"If you are shipping chile out of state, be aware of the requirements and avoid costly delays and package rejections," said Carol Sutherland, entomology specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

California and Arizona have border inspection stations to check incoming fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products for pests. These stations help keep pests not known in those states from establishing in new areas, Sutherland explained. Shippers should comply with requirements at the stations to ensure that packages get to their destinations.

"If you are driving and taking fresh chile with you for personal use or as gifts for friends or relatives, be sure to get an itemized sales receipt from the salesperson in New Mexico," Sutherland said. "A dated receipt with the farm or market name and New Mexico address would be best for establishing what the product is, the amount involved and its origin."

Not all agents at the border stations and package inspection areas know what chile is and what various varieties look like. Having the written information readily available and permitting agents to inspect chile will make your trip easier, she said.

People planning to transport large amounts of chile, more than a few sacks, for example, should consider getting a state phytosanitary certificate from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture in Las Cruces. "For a nominal charge, some general information from you, and a day's notice to prepare the form, the state "phyto" will speed your visit through the border checkpoints," Sutherland said.

Packages of chile also can be mailed or shipped to relatives and friends. Cushion the chile with paper towels or similar absorbent materials. To avoid rot problems, don't use plastic. Pack each box tightly and secure with strapping tape. On the face of the box, plainly print the name and address for the destination and your complete return address.

In the package's lower left corner, write diagonally "Contents: Hot Chile Peppers." Below that, write: "Origin: New Mexio," followed by name of the county in which the peppers were grown. Put the same information on a sheet of plain paper, slipping it inside the box flaps, Sutherland recommended. This way, if the box is opened at an inspection point and the original address is lost or destroyed, the enclosed information can be taped back on the box to ensure its arrival.

It's normal for packages to be inspected at various mail or freight shipping hubs in some states. Those with agricultural materials inside are likely to be opened for inspection. This may delay delivery a little, but should not harm quality, well- packed produce, she said. The "Contents" and "Origin" statements on the outside of the box should help get the produce through inspection and on to its destination faster.

"Finally, make sure the recipient knows the package is coming," Sutherland advised. "That way, those tasty pods can be cleaned and refrigerated promptly for everyone's enjoyment."