New Zealand Halts Apple Exports to China After Discovery of Fungal Rot (VIDEOS)

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By Vittorio Hernandez | September 26, 2013 8:10 AM EST

Having learnt its lessons from the botulism scare caused by tainted milk products made by Fonterra, New Zealand is not taking any chances this time and immediately halted the export of another major agricultural product.

Local apple growers halted exports to China after a fungal rot was discovered which could harm plants in China. The rotten batch of apples were traced to Hawke's Bay, the biggest apple growing region of New Zealand located on the east of North Island.

"Industry has informed us that in response to the rot being detected - and considering this apple export season is almost over - it has voluntarily suspended all apple exports to China for the remainder of the season," the Ministry of Primary Industries said in a statement.

China buys about $15 million worth of apples from New Zealand yearly, but it is just a fraction of the 4400 million that the country exports yearly.

The fungus, neofabraea alba, that caused post-harvest rot was found in three consignments in early September and alerted New Zealand officials.

Chinese officials themselves requested the suspension of the apples from some production sites and packing houses in Hawke's Bay.

Stephen Butcher, the manager of import and export of Pipfruit New Zealand, said the fungus has been in New Zealand the past 100 years but is not found in China; hence, the decision to halt the exports, although it is not a food safety issue.

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