With trade derailed since August by a phytosanitary dispute, U.S. apple industry leaders in January are still working to reopen the Chinese market for U.S. exports of red and golden delicious apples.

Chinese authorities said they closed the market because of post harvest decay and disease issues, said Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, Yakima, Wash.

The market was officially closed Aug. 9, though Chinese honored some import permits after that, Archer said.

While overall Washington apple exports are up 7% this season, shipments to China are down, Archer said. Only 14,000 cartons were shipped to China through Jan. 9 during the 2012-13 season, compared to whole season totals of 408,538 cartons in 2011-12 and 784,000 cartons in 2010-11.

Archer said the Washington apple industry and government authorities visited with Chinese officials in Washington Dec. 10, but there has been no official response from China about the visit.

He said Chinese authorities have suggested in the past that growers apply pre-harvest fungicides throughout the growing season in addition to the application of post-harvest fungicides.

“That’s a fairly tall order for the entire crop,” he said.

Archer said there is no way to know what lots will be exported to China during the growing season, so the entire crop would have to be treated to comply with the Chinese suggestion.

The Chinese market has declined in importance over the past couple of years because of what Archer believes are harassing tactics by Chinese authorities.

“In many cases the detections are not documented and there has been a serious lag time in reporting those,” he said.

Archer said incidents have gone unreported as long as eight or nine months.

“We have offered (to withhold) what they think were offending lots if we received prompt notification, but that hasn’t been forthcoming,” Archer said.

Archer said Jan. 9 that Washington sources were waiting for official word from China on possible next steps.

One issue that may complicate U.S. efforts is China’s strong desire for progress on their long sought quest to gain access to the U.S. market for fresh apples, Archer said.