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US: DPA decision key to New York apple future in Europe

The New York apple industry is warning that a decision by the European Commission to outlaw DPA could signal the end of a long and successful relationship between the State’s shippers and customers in European markets.

New York is the second largest producer state in the US, growing around 30 million bushel boxes annually. The Empire variety in particular has built a following in Europe over the last 45 years and Europe is right at the heart of the industry’s export strategy.

Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association says that New York is just one of the world’s leading apple production regions that has a huge cloud hanging over the future of its European business. “Only two years ago, we took the stance of the EU authorities on morpholine on the chin and dealt with it quickly,” he said.

“That is not even on the radar any more. For our shippers though, DPA is all-or-nothing. If the EU Standing Committee decides in February to set the MRL at a realistic level of detection, which accounts for cross-contamination, then our customers know that New York shippers will do everything in their power to address the situation and ship within a realistic plan. However, if they set the MRL at the level currently being discussed, then our shippers will have no choice but to walk away from the market.”

“In some respects, we have nothing to lose,” Allen added. “We very much want to continue our relationship with Europe, but our shippers would survive without it. However, we are not the only industry affected. Any industry in the world that has not operated in a DPA-free environment for the last few years would find it very difficult to meet the new requirements.

“If Europe was removed from the equation, our growers would definitely move away from planting Empire to a degree. It is a popular apple and also has good processing demand, but it is a much stronger proposition for growers if the European market is open. If they have to look to other markets, there will be of course implications for marketing and production plans, and once you take trees out and replace them with different varieties, that is a long-term decision. It would very difficult to go back in two or three years and reverse things if the EU market changed its mind.

“DPA is used and accepted in every other market in the world and has been for decades. Speaking for New York, I know it is also used more responsibly and in lower quantities than ever. There is also no evidence of DPA having caused any safety issues, but the EU is still considering this approach. At this point, we remain optimistic that the EU Standing Committee will consider all of the evidence put before it and reach a decision in February that safeguards not only consumers, but also the apple industry in the EU and around the world.”

The 2012-13 season has unfortunately been a virtual write-off for New York apples in Europe. “This year is an anomaly – we’ve had 60% less fruit and that has virtually wiped out our exports,” said Allen. “Our relationships are strong enough to handle this. New York shippers let their European customers know very early what the situation was this year and, while they might not have liked it, the customers understood the situation and are already looking forward to next season.

“Throughout the State, there is a tremendous bud formation for next year. The trees were obviously not worked as hard this season and we could have a very big crop, if everything goes our way between now and then. The two main issues we face are the weather and the extraneous conditions that may be placed upon our shippers by European bureaucrats.”

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