August 5, 2008

American Checks Out Export Apples

By BASHAM, Laura

The last of the country's 1.8 million cartons of apple exports to the United States this season are heading out under the watchful eye of US Department of Agriculture inspector Mark Stull.

Mr Stull has been in Nelson since April checking the exports do not have any diseases or pests hitchhiking a ride to Philadelphia or Los Angeles.

Doing the inspections here means the apples get a quicker trip through the US border.

Asure Quality field manager Jeff Fahey said, "It means the apples can go straight off the ship into the marketplace."

Asure Quality, which provides biosecurity and food safety assurance, works with Biosecurity New Zealand, Pipfruit New Zealand and the apple industry to ease the inspection process.

Enza spokesman David Binns said the programme got the thumbs up because of significant cost savings.

"Without the pre-clearance process, apple exports would struggle to meet the delivery requirements set by US retailers."

New Zealand apple exporters picked up the cost of two US inspectors to come here this season, splitting their time between Nelson and Hawke's Bay.

They inspected 213 individual lots of fruit in Nelson, with each lot ranging from 5000 to 25,000 cartoons.

Mr Stull, who is from Maryland, said they mostly looked for mealy bugs, codlin moth and leaf rollers, and less than 2 percent was rejected.

"If it gets to about 20 percent, we may put the programme on hold and maybe stop the exports, but this is well under the acceptable level."

He said he had tried every variety of apple, but would not reveal his favourite, diplomatically pleading his Fifth Amendment rights. He has one apple tree in own garden and is unsure what variety it is.

However, he has plenty of experience in food inspection, and is part of a group of 10 US inspectors who travel the world.

His next stop might be Korea to check on asian pears, or Brazil to inspect mangos and he is likely to be in Chile by January to look at asparagus and avocados.

He hopes to back in NZ for the next apple season - and to check out the snapper and blue cod off D'Urville Island.


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