EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural specialists report being “busier than ever” processing chile imports from Mexico at the Columbus, New Mexico, port of entry.

The CBP’s operation “Hot Chile” is underway and CBP agricultural specialists will process between 90 and 100 shipments of chile a day during the busiest part of the import season.

During the 2021 chile import season, CBP agriculture specialists processed just under 11,000 shipments of chile from Mexico.  That volume is expected to increase during the current 2022 import period. The number of imports has increased substantially annually. In 2016 the total number of imports was just over 8,900.

The added attention has proved to be important, CBP officials said. During the 2021 chile import season, the work performed by agriculture specialists resulted in 119 pest interceptions. A review of those pests found that 25 were considered actionable and those shipments were returned to Mexico.

All arriving shipments are subject to an X-ray scan. Following that a CBP agriculture specialist will perform a physical inspection of the shipment, which includes searching for pests, disease and contamination such as soil or federal noxious weed seed.

The chile import season begins in late July. The busiest period is September and October.