Two more larvae could shut down all Washington apple exports to Taiwan

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A codling moth larva has been found in a Washington apple in Taiwan, but industry officials say chances probably are slim of two more being discovered -- a trigger that would shut down Washington apple exports to the island country.

The larva was found Nov. 5 and live larvae have never been found in Washington apples in Taiwan after Dec. 19, said Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima.

Any additional detections are not counted if they occur during a 14-day investigation of the shipper by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA, Powers said.

APHIS inspects the shipper to make sure proper pest-detection protocols were followed, he said. They always have been, but larvae occasionally slip through, he said.

Washington apple shippers lost an estimated $17.7 million in direct sales in the 2004-2005 sales season when Taiwan banned Washington apples for four months after three codling moth strikes, Powers said.

The closure forced Washington shippers to sell 1 million boxes of apples domestically that normally would have been sold in Taiwan. That depressed prices and cost the industry an estimated additional $8 million, Powers said.

Taiwan is typically the third-largest importer of Washington apples, behind Mexico and Canada.

The codling moth is a bug that destroys fruit. Taiwan wants to keep its own apple and pear industry free of the bug and has strict rules about detections.

Washington shippers have exported about half of their expected volume to Taiwan for the season. As of Nov. 15, 924,000 40-pound boxes of apples, mainly Fuji, had been shipped to Taiwan, Powers said. That's up just 1 percent from the same point last season, which ended at 2.3 million boxes shipped, he said.

November, December and January are high-volume months in preparation for the Chinese New Year, which usually falls in early February.

The hort council did not release the name of the shipper whose apples contained the larva. Taiwan usually bans apples from shippers whose apples contain larva for the rest of the season.

The council is working to eliminate the three-strike rule or lessen its repercussions. The council worked to establish the three-strike rule after a single strike closed the market for about a month in 2002.

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