Monday, September 15, 2008

United States to ban all New Zealand flower imports

Flower growers are worried they are on verge of losing one of their biggest international markets.

From midnight, American agriculture authorities are banning all New Zealand flower imports following the discovery of two flower shipments containing light brown apple moth eggs.

The decision to suspend the flower imports will hit growers hard, as it comes right in the middle of the lucrative orchid season.

"It's a major concern at this time of year because we're in full flush like other growers," Joe Sonneveld from Joshua Ltd says.

Mr Sonneveld sells over a quarter of his orchid crop to the US and is concerned that losing the American market could see prices collapse.

"If it can't go elsewhere it will be dumped in Japan," he says. "And that could be a disaster for prices that are already weak."

Flower exports to the US make up a third of New Zealand's $50 million flower export industry.

The US says the ban is part of a $100 million plan to eradicate the moth in California. However, some Kiwi growers smell a rat.

"The moth is already in America, why ban our flowers now" Mr Sonneveld asks. "I think its protectionism."

The Flower Exporters Association and MAF officials have been quick to address their American counterparts' concerns.

"We're hoping that within a week we'll be able to resume a limited amount of exports of orchids to the US," MAF's Peter Johnston says. "And then certainly other crops will probably take us one or two months."

MAF hopes to begin inspections of the biggest indoor growers next week.


Steve Peralta

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