(Nov. 22) WASHINGTON, D.C. — A dose of reassurance and more stringent inspection requirements may be all that are needed to reopen the profitable Taiwan market to U.S. apples.

That, essentially, is the assessment of Mike Willett, vice president of scientific affairs for the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council and one of several representatives the U.S. recently sent to Taipei to nego-tiate reopening the market to U.S. product.

Taiwan has banned the import of U.S. apples after alleged discoveries of live codling moth larvae in shipments from Washington and California. In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service opened talks with Taiwan about reopening the market.

APHIS is expected to issue a report by Nov. 27 on any increased inspection requirements for apples that are bound for Taiwan.

“Basically, there was a discussion between APHIS and Taiwan government officials, and they began to outline some preliminary steps the industry could take to open the market,” Willett said. “The full details of that have not been completely sorted out yet.”

At stake is a market to which Washington shippers sent 3.3 million 42-pound boxes of apples — 85% of which were fujis — in 2001, according to the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission, making Taiwan Wash-ington’s third-largest export market for the season.

Peak shipping to Taiwan occurs in December and January, before the Chinese New Year. With that schedule in mind, finding a quick solution to the problem is important, Willett said.

In the meantime, Taiwan sent Shuyoung Chang, vice director of the Keelung office of its Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, to Washington and California Nov. 21-26 to get a first-hand look at inspection systems.

“He’s going to review our inspection practices and talk to us about any proposed mitigation measures that they and APHIS are trying to come to agreement on,” Willett said.

Both sides want the issue resolved, said Nancy Foster, president of the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Associa-tion.

“The Taiwan market wants our apples, and we’re taking all the steps we can to make that happen,” Foster said. “We’re optimistic that the market will be open.”