Fears that the Taiwan market might be closed to U.S. apples because of another codling moth detection seem to have resulted in high volumes of apples being shipped there this season.
The workplan for exporting apples to Taiwan states that if live codling moth larvae are found in U.S. apples shipped there on three occasions, the U.S. apple export program to Taiwan will be suspended for the rest of the season. One live larva was found in a shipment of Washington apples last October, and a second in November.
Dr. Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs with the Northwest Horticultural Council, said after the two strikes, buyers of Washington apples in Taiwan started asking for more fruit to be shipped in case the market closed, and this didn’t do much to maintain prices in what is usually a good-return market.
With no third strike, this could be one of the larger volume years for Washington apples in Taiwan, he said. Exports to Taiwan are up by almost a third from last year, with 2.5 million boxes shipped up to the end of January.
Meanwhile, the Hort Council is trying to help Pacific Northwest growers implement a system that can result in no further codling moth detections in Taiwan. It is also working to ensure that, should a third codling moth be detected, the entire market doesn’t close.
Many producers feel that their fate in Taiwan is not in their own hands because even if they have clean fruit, they risk being shut out of the market if a larva is found in someone else’s shipment, Willett said. The industry would prefer a penalty structure that makes each packing house responsible for making sure the fruit is free of pests and encourages them to do a better job.
Willett said decisions on the penalty structure are being made on a political level in Taiwan. The country is concerned about codling moth because it has a small tree fruit industry that it is trying to protect. It has just under 38,000 acres of plums, pears, peaches, and apples, primarily in Miaoli and Taichung Counties. The climate is tropical, but growers are able to produce low-chill fruit varieties.
Codling moth is not found between the latitudes 30°N and 30°S, Willett said, and it could be that the pest can’t survive there. Codling moth goes into diapause when the day length drops below 15 hours, but in Taiwan, which is close to the equator, there is no day in the year that is more than 12 hours long. Only the tops of the mountains have daytime temperatures below 50°F, he said.