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Apples to Taiwan beat pest risk

Horticultural council works to ease Taiwan's regulations


Capital Press

WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Washington apple exports to Taiwan are picking up pace, as is normal this time of year, and have cleared the window of possible market closure due to codling moth.

In the first two weeks of December, 261,000 boxes of apples, mainly Fuji, were shipped to Taiwan compared with 234,000 boxes the previous two weeks, said Rebecca Baerveldt, export marketing manager of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee. Each box is 40 pounds.

Shipments usually are heaviest in November, December and January in anticipation of the Chinese New Year, which typically falls in early February.

Season-to-date shipments are behind the last two years because of Washington's late harvest and Southern Hemisphere apples remaining in the market longer, Baerveldt said.

As of Dec. 15, 993,633 boxes of Washington apples had been shipped to Taiwan versus 1.2 million boxes by the same date last year and 1.4 million two years ago, she said.

Taiwan remains Washington's third-largest apple export market behind Mexico and Canada despite averaging 2 million boxes annually for the past eight years.

Prior to 2002, exports to Taiwan averaged about 4 million boxes a year and peaked at 4.7 million in 2000. In 2002, Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization and began importing apples from other countries, mainly Japan, South Korea, Chile and New Zealand.

Discovery of codling moth in Washington apples has disrupted shipments in past years, but none have been found this season as of Dec. 21 and likely won't be now, said Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima.

Dec. 19 is the latest codling moth ever has been found in Washington apples in Taiwan, and it takes three separate detections to close the market.

Codling moth is the chief pest of Washington apples but is well controlled. Taiwan has strict protocols against codling moth.

In November 2002, the market was shut down for about a month because of a single detection. Thereafter, the Northwest Horticultural Council worked to change rules so that it took three detections to close the market.

Three detections occurred in the fall of 2004, shutting down the market for four months at what Powers then estimated was a $17.7 million loss in direct sales. An additional $8 million was lost, he said, due to depressed apple prices in the United States as 1 million boxes of apples normally sold in Taiwan went to the U.S. market.

There have been detections since 2004 but never enough to close the market.

The Horticultural Council has been working since then to ease restrictions even more. It wants detections to result in fumigation of the appropriate load and any shutdown to be specific to the orchard of origin, not the packer or the entire industry.

The council worked for two years with the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to develop a risk assessment showing it's almost impossible for codling moth to spread from Washington to Taiwan. Larvae are usually dead by mid-December and temperatures are too high in Taiwan for the moth to complete its life cycle there, the council has said.

"The risk assessment analysis was there's a 99 percent chance it would take at least 10,000 years before a mating pair of codling moth would occur in Taiwan," Powers said.

APHIS presented the analysis to Taiwan in 2006 and Taiwan has not responded, Powers said.

The issue will be discussed at bilateral plant health talks between the two countries in Taiwan the week of Jan. 17, Powers said. It is the first such talks in two years, he said.


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