(Nov. 14) TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan has banned the import of U.S. apples after alleged discoveries of live codling moth larvae in shipments from Washington and California.

Talks to resolve the matter were under way the week of Nov. 11 after representatives from the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash., flew to Taipei.

Washington shippers sent 3.3 million 42-pound boxes of its 2001 crop to Taiwan, making the nation Washington’s third-largest export market for the season, said Rebecca Baerveldt, intentional marketing manager for the Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee. Of that, 85% of the apples were fujis.

Peak shipping to Taiwan occurs in December and January, before the Chinese New Year.

“We’re really hopeful that this is going to be resolved very quickly,” Baerveldt said. As of Nov. 14, the commission hadn’t changed its plans to promote the holiday.

Taiwan found a live codling moth larva Nov. 5 in a shipment of Washington apples, said Yin-Fu Chang, an entomologist at the Taiwanese embassy in Washington, D.C. The discovery reportedly was among red delicious apples, said Mark Powers, vice president of the horticultural council.

Another moth larva was found Nov. 11 in a California shipment, Chang said.

Powers said Taiwan provided written notification Nov. 7 that it would suspend all U.S. apple imports.

Shipments already on the water with a phytosanitary certificate dated Nov. 7 or earlier will be allowed entry to Taiwan but will be subject to increased inspection fees, he said.

In order for U.S. shipments to resume, the U.S. has to investigate why the moths were in the shipments, Chang said. The U.S. also needs to provide improvement measures for field pest control, packinghouse management and export inspection for apples destined for Taiwan, he said.

Japan and South Korea compete with the U.S. for the Taiwanese market this time of year, he said.

The U.S. has exported apples to Taiwan for 25 years, Chang said. This is the first major phytosanitary problem Taiwan has found with the fruit, he said.

In Washington’s case, Taiwan claimed to find a single insect in a container, Power said. The U.S. government has to determine the credibility of those claims, he said.

Powers noted that a single insect can’t go on to produce a population of breeding pests.

“The question is really whether Taiwan responded to the detection with the least trade restrictive measure that still provides adequate protection from the pest, which is what World Trade Organization rules require,” he said in a separate, written statement. “The industry feels that Taiwan overreacted, particularly when you consider that this is the first problem we've encountered in over 20 years of shipping to Taiwan.”

Rich Roberts, director of export sales for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, said the company’s Taiwanese customers were very concerned about the ban.

U.S. West Coast apples have been a big program in Taiwan, where the media have blown the news way out of proportion, he said. Roberts called the discovery of a codling moth among U.S. apples “exceedingly unusual” and voiced hopes that markets could reopen by late November.

“We understand their phytosanitary concerns, and we’re anxious to do what we can to alleviate them and get the market open again,” he said.

The holiday for the Chinese New Year falls Feb. 1. The ideal window for West Coast departures to Taiwan for the holiday is between Dec. 20 and Jan. 10, Roberts said.

Total U.S. export volumes to Taiwan have fluctuated according to overall production, said Julia Daly, vice president of public relations for the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va.

The U.S. shipped 3.9 million 42-pound boxes from the 2001 crop to Taiwan; it shipped 5.8 million there in the 2000-01 season and 4.4 million in 1999-2000 season.