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Taiwan may ban fruit from Japan and South Korea

Trading partners asked to deal with issue of insect control before February 2006

2005-11-30 / Taiwan News, Staff Reporter / By Changs Ling-yin

Taiwan's government will block imports of many kinds of fruit from Japan and South Korea beginning in February next year if the two countries are unable to improve measures to deal with the peach fruit moth, local quarantine officials announced yesterday.
The Animal and Plant Inspection and Quarantine Bureau said those countries would have to submit effective quarantine measures to counter the pest that gain the bureau's approval to avert the ban.

A number of fruits - including apples, peaches, pears, American plums, Japanese plums, apricots, quinces and dates - are vulnerable to the peach fruit moth that has been detected in crops in Russia, China, South Korea and Japan.

But because Taiwan does not import any of the above fruits from China and Russia, the proposed ban would only pose a threat to Japanese and Korean fruit exports to Taiwan, according to the Bureau of Foreign Trade.

The bureau decided to propose the ban for next February 1 because the two countries said their new moth-fighting steps would not be ready until January 2006. At the same time, many local consumers buy apples and pears from Japan and Korea to offer as gifts during the Lunar New Year, so the bureau decided to suggest the embargo for just after the holiday break.

The bureau found peach fruit moths in a shipment of apples imported from Japan two years ago for the first time and in another batch of apples from Japan in October this year.

Threat to local crops

Eating fruit containing the moths does not pose a threat to human health, but the bureau is concerned that the pest could thrive in Taiwan's climate and cause huge losses to local fruit growers. The moths reproduce rapidly and bore through fruit, decreasing the quality of the product and causing fruits to fall off their trees or vines prematurely.

Any ban would be a blow to South Korea and Japan, especially for apples, pears and peaches, which are the main fruits exported to Taiwan from those two countries.

During the last year, Japan exported 10,416 tons of apples, 1,158 tons of pears, and 363 tons of peaches to Taiwan with a total value of US$19.4 million, according to the Bureau of Foreign Trade.

South Korea exported US$14.2 million worth of the three types of fruit, including 2,694 tons of apples, 8,506 tons of pears and 17 tons of peaches to Taiwan.

The Council of Agriculture said that with 70 percent of Taiwan's imported apples originating from America and Chile, local apple demand could still be met if a ban were to be imposed. But pears could be in short supply, as local supplies generally are not available until May.

Eighty-three percent of Taiwan's pear imports come from South Korea, and another 14 percent come from Japan.

The inspection and quarantine bureau has also decided to stop Australia's apples, grapes and 22 other kinds of fruit from being imported to Taiwan starting on January 1, 2006, if Australia does not submit improved quarantine measures against the Queensland fruit fly.

The Queensland fruit fly thrives on humidity and can infest a wide range of commercial and native tree and vine fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, chili peppers and others but does not affect plants of the gourd family, such as melons.

With less than 1 percent of Taiwan's imported fruit coming from Australia, however, the impact of a ban on local consumers or Australian fruit exports would be minimal.