With no more codling moth detections, shippers free of closure worries

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

It looks like Washington apple shippers are home free for another season of exports to Taiwan.

As of Dec. 18 there had been no more codling moth detections in Washington apples in Taiwan. Dec. 19 is the latest any have ever been detected.

"I think we are fairly much in the clear," said Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash.

It takes three moth detections to shut down the market. That happened in the 2004-05 season. The four-month closure cost $17.7 million in direct sales and an estimated $8 million in depressed prices when 1 million boxes of apples that would have gone to Taiwan had to be sold in the U.S.

The sole codling moth detection in Taiwan this season was Nov. 5. And for the first time Taiwan has cleared the shipper involved to continue exporting in the same season, Powers said.

"That's the way it should be, because there was no violation of protocols of inspection," he said.

The Northwest Horticultural Council continues to work to eliminate the three-detection closure rule -- called the three-strike rule -- on codling moths that it helped set up in 2002 after a single detection closed the market for about a month.

The council argues that codling moths pose no threat to Taiwan's apple industry because the climate there is too warm for the bug to complete its life cycle.

Powers said it took the council two years to compile technical data to submit to the U.S. government, which used that material to ask Taiwan to end the three-strike rule.

That was three years ago and Taiwan has not responded, Powers said. "Ideally, we'd like to see cargo fumigated on arrival and the penalty apply only to the orchard, not the shed (packer-shipper) at all," he said. "But that doesn't appear politically acceptable to the government of Taiwan."

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