Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

US apples banned after larva found

AGRICULTURAL THREAT Health officials said the larva posed a threat to other fruit besides apples, and that imports will be banned until a report is filed by the US

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

US apple imports were temporarily suspended Tuesday after a codling moth larva was found during an inspection.

PHOTO: BUREAU OF ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION

To avoid a potentially serious threat to local agriculture, apple imports from the US have been banned since Tuesday, after inspectors discovered a codling moth larva -- also known as an apple worm -- in a shipment from the US, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

According to the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, a single live codling moth larva was found when inspectors in Keelung randomly checked more than 1,000 apples imported from Oregon on Monday. On Tuesday, the bureau declared the ban.

"We don't know when the ban will be lifted," the bureau's deputy director-general Yeh Ying (葉瑩) said yesterday. "It's already the third similar case this year. The US should prepare an investigative report within the week to explain it."

Yeh said that codling moths were also found in apples from the US in September and October.

According to the bureau, since January Taiwan has imported more than 100,000 tonnes of apples. Taiwan imports apples from nine countries. Over half of Taiwan's imported apples -- 52.22 percent -- come from the US, followed by Chile with 18.96 percent, New Zealand's 16.01 percent, Japan's 8.26 percent, South Korea's 2.31 percent, South Africa's 1.61 percent, Australia's 0.5 percent, Canada's 0.1 percent, and France's 0.03 percent.

Codling moth adults are small in a size, about one centimeter long. The apple worm, a pest native to Eurasia, was introduced to the US over 200 years ago, and now wriggles throughout North America and almost anywhere on the globe where apples are grown. All nine importing countries except Japan and Korea are affected by the spread of the insidious pest.

Yeh said that in the last two years, the US has chalked up the worst record, with seven violations involving the discovery of apple worms. Yeh attributed this sorry performance to US gardeners' reluctance to adopt expensive but commonly-used measures to suffocate the moth eggs.

Codling moths were found in US apples in November 2002. At that time, imports were suspended for more than a month.

Meanwhile, several batches of potentially larva-ridden apples from the US, which shipped before the announcement of the latest ban on Tuesday, are on the way to Taiwan. Bureau officials said that it was uncertain how many such shipments were on the way, but said that customs will increase its number of spot checks.

"We will sample 4 percent of such batches of imported US apples rather than the previous 2 percent," Chang Shu-young (張世揚), head of the bureau's Plant Quarantine Division, told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Chang stressed that the apple worm could potentially cause serious damage to Taiwan's agriculture.

"Besides apples, the codling moth also damages pears, peaches, plums and other fruits common in Taiwan," Chang said.

Taiwan is reportedly the third largest overseas market for US apples, and is the number one market for American Fuji apples. US apples cost anywhere NT$9 to NT$45 each in Taiwan. Dealers said yesterday that the price for apples might go up because of the ban.

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