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Friday, January 06, 2006

The Mercury: Apples face fruit-fly ban in Taiwan [07jan06]

Apples face fruit-fly ban in Taiwan


FRUIT growers are hoping $5 million in apple exports to Taiwan can be saved by the lifting of a fruit import ban.

Tasmania is already in danger of losing hard-fought cherry export markets to countries such as Chile, growers say.

But producers are hoping Taiwan's halt to Australian fruit imports will be reversed before the apple season.

Taiwan imposed a ban, taking effect on January 1, citing fruit-fly fears.

Tasmania had hoped to be exempt because of it is free of the disease.

With the cherry season well under way, it seens unlikely the ban will be lifted in time to save cherry exports, worth up to $2 million.

Fruit Growers Tasmania president Tim Reid said it was disappointing, although much of the fruit could be sent elsewhere at good prices.

Small quantities of Tasmanian peaches, nectarines and plums are also affected.

"It's certainly a disappointment to us, because of the time spent developing the shipping into Taiwan," said Mr Reid, a cherry-grower.

"Now Taiwan has to import from elsewhere, mainly from Chile, and once they start dealing with Chile that could affect us in the longer term.

"In the longer time, we'll have to be careful."

Mr Reid said that, while cherries were bringing high prices in markets of the UK and Europe, the risk was that Taiwan would continue to deal with alternative suppliers, even if the ban was lifted.

The lower cherry yield had ameliorated potential losses, he said.

"It was a lighter crop, blossom time in September, and October had very unsettled conditions," he said.

Most apples sent to Taiwan were Fuji, which would normally be sent in May or June, Mr Reid said.

"Certainly we'd hope to have this issue resolved by then," he said.

"Taiwan is a major market for our apples."

In December, Tasmanian Primary Industries and Water Minister Steve Kons flew to Taiwan with an industry delegation to put the case for Tasmania to be exempt under tougher quarantine restrictions.

There have been some concerns that Taiwan's moves were related to its own hopes of sending mangoes, lychees and preserved eggs into Australia.

Australian Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has said Biosecurity Australia would give priority to Taiwan's request to look at allowing the products.

It is understood the eggs were unlikely to be allowed in because of Asian bird flu fears.

Federal Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Department spokeswoman Nicola Hinder said negotiations were under way with the Taiwanese authorities.

"We have had two very senior representatives in Taiwan since before Christmas to continue the discussions," she said.

"The Taiwanese Quarantine Advisory Committee have brought the meeting forward to this Thursday to deal with the fruit ban issue, and within a couple of days we will have some indication of the outcome."


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