New regulations regarding postharvest chemicals could take a huge bite out of New York’s apple exports.
The European Commission has proposed limiting residues of diphenylamine, or DPA, on apples to 0.1 parts per million.
That presents a huge risk for U.S. apple shippers looking for overseas business.
“The EC’s decision is particularly disappointing for us because it’s unnecessary,” said Julia Stewart, spokeswoman for the Fishers-based New York Apple Association Inc.
“There is no sound science base for it.”
The regulation, which likely will be implemented next year and affect apples stored from this year’s crop, would not affect organic apples.
Some varieties — such as red delicious — do not require DPA even if they are grown conventionally.
However, with such a low threshold for the chemical, apples not treated with DPA still could fail to meet requirements if they are cross-contaminated in bins or on lines that have been used with DPA-treated fruit.
“We expect to have to leave the European market entirely and focus our attention elsewhere — for example, developing markets,” said Stewart, who noted 10% of New York’s fresh-market crop is exported.
Empire apples shipped to Europe account for about half those exports.
Shippers accommodate for rules
Not all New York shippers are giving up on the EU.
Tim Mansfield, director of sales and marketing, said Sun Orchard Fruit Co., Burt, N.Y., has a new packing line that it will use for export fruit, and the company won’t use DPA on fruit designated for the EU.
Growers participating in the company’s export program also will use new bins.
“It’s a challenge, but with a good plan and execution, we think we can still deliver a good product and meet their demands,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eastern apple growers outside New York said whatever European regulators decide, it won’t affect them.
“Our exports have always been south,” said Sheila Gantz, vice president of Bear Mountain Orchards Inc., Aspers, Pa.
Gantz said the company’s top export target is Honduras, where it ships red delicious apples.
However, Maggie Travis, Bear Mountain’s director of sales, said the company is working with the Sub-Saharan Africa Chamber of Commerce to find new export markets on that continent.
“We’re pretty excited about that,” Travis said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Although growers in Virginia and Pennsylvania weren’t mourning the loss of the European market, they acknowledged that if New York shippers abandon their EU deals, there could be increased competition elsewhere.
John Rice, vice president of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., said his company already has experienced decreased demand from Central American markets because importers there have been able to secure cheaper shipping rates from the West Coast.
Jamie Williams, president of Turkey Knob Apples Inc., Timberville, Va., said his company primarily sends its exports to South America and the Caribbean, but he said U.S. apple growers are receiving increased attention from India.
“That seems to be the next destination,” he said.