May 7, 2013
Decision threatens U.S. apple exports to Europe

Last month, the European Commission decided to lower the permitted residue level of diphenylamine (DPA) on imported apples. Starting in January 2014, the level will not be able to exceed 0.1 parts per million – a “ridiculously low” limit, said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association.

Europe’s current DPA limit is 5 parts per million, whereas the current U.S. limit is 10 ppm. DPA is a plant growth regulator applied postharvest and used to manage scald in apples and pears, according to the Northwest Horticultural Council.

The decision will have a major impact on exports of New York state apples to Europe, especially Empire apples. Europe – the United Kingdom in particular – is a strong market for Empires, Allen said.

Because of the DPA decision, Pacific Northwest exporters might lose half their normal shipments to Europe, said Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs at the Northwest Horticultural Council.

Other apple-producing countries that export to Europe, like Chile and Argentina, will be affected by the decision, too, Allen said. Willett said a lot of European growers are unhappy with the lowering of the DPA level because it will lead to significant losses for them as well.

Willett called DPA a “pretty essential tool” in storage. Not all U.S. apples are treated with the plant growth regulator, but its residues are volatile and can move from treated fruit and bins to untreated fruit and bins. As a result, DPA can contaminate stored fruit at significant levels – even fruit that wasn’t treated with it. DPA residues are persistent, too, and can stick around for years, he said.

The risk of DPA cross-contamination in storage will make Europe’s 0.1 residue level almost impossible for affected shippers to work with, Allen said.

Matt Milkovich

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