In late 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture abruptly imposed a ban on the import of tomato and pepper seeds until they are tested and found free of a new virus that is afflicting commercial tomato and pepper crops around the world. The new regulation has thrown the seed industry in Europe into disarray as seed companies rush to complete the required tests on thousands of seed lots of hundreds of varieties.
At this time, Franchi is having seeds tested for the virus and, as soon as testing is completed, will package and ship them to us. We don’t know exactly when that will be, but unfortunately we're no longer optimistic that it will be in time for most of our customers to start their seeds indoors. We will keep you updated on the timeline as we learn more.
The smaller seed companies that we usually buy from were not able to comply with the USDA requirements, so we will not be selling some varieties that we’ve offered in the past.
A bit of background on the problem: The disease called Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) was first found in tomatoes in Jordan in 2015. It has since been found in California, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom, China, Saudi Arabia, and Greece. The virus is harmless to humans and animals. It affects only tomatoes and peppers, and it causes fruits to get brown wrinkled spots that make the crop unmarketable. ToBRFV is very contagious and can be transmitted on workers’ hands, clothing, tools, and so on. There are no resistant varieties.
Everyone expects this to be a temporary problem as virus-tested seeds make their way through the pipeline this year. Beginning this summer, seed crops will be tested in the field to ensure they don’t have the virus, so we hope everything will get back on schedule for 2021.
We do still have in stock a few varieties of tomatoes and peppers, but quantities are limited, so we encourage you to buy soon, just in case we don’t get new seeds until later in the year. In the meantime, please watch your email for updates, and thanks in advance for your patience.