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New Zealand apple exports to Australia are set to fall far short of expectations, with some growers pulling out due to quarantine restrictions and prohibitive costs, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Three months ago, the World Trade Organisation lifted a century-old ban on the importation of New Zealand apples to Australia but officials imposed strict guidelines, with cartons undergoing tough checks before they can be allowed into the country.

Two million trays were expected to be shipped across the Tasman in the first year but just 1% is expected to arrive.

Quarantine officials already have rejected three consignments of apples because of fears they could carry fire blight, a condition common in New Zealand.

New Zealand apple grower Phil Allison says it is too expensive to send his apples across the ditch.

He normally pays $9 to export a carton of apples, but says it costs him $30 to send it to Australia.

“If you are going to lose between $10 and $15 a carton, that will give you some sort of an indication,” Allison was quoted saying.

A spokesman for industry association Apple and Pear Australia, Stuart Gray, says the quarantine laws are working.

He said the few NZ apples that have been exported to Australia were found to have leaf trash and twigs – well known carrier of the fire blight.

Gray says many New Zealand growers can meet the quarantine conditions and find it worthwhile to export their produce to Australia.

He expects to see New Zealand apples in the Australian market.

New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture’s director of import and export standards, Tim Knox, says he is seeking talks with his Australian counterparts.

“We will be talking to our colleagues in Australia about to get a clear definition about what constitutes trash and what doesn’t,” Knox said.

–Source: ABC.net.au

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