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New Zealand Suspends Apple Exports to China After Fungal Rot

New Zealand’s government said domestic apple growers suspended exports to China after a fungal rot discovery, less than two months after the nation’s biggest exporter was hurt by a contamination scare.

The fungus, while not a threat to food safety, is considered in China to be harmful to plants, New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries said in a statement today. Chinese authorities traced the three affected consignments of apples to Hawke’s Bay, the nation’s largest growing region, on the east of the North Island, the ministry said.

Auckland-based Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., the world’s biggest dairy exporter, said early last month a dirty pipe may have contaminated a whey protein used in baby formula, triggering recalls in China by Coca-Cola Co. and Danone SA. While testing subsequently found there was no food safety risk, Fonterra undertook a review of its handling of the scare, which jeopardized New Zealand’s trade links with China.

“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 said in its statement today.

New Zealand currently exports about NZ$15 million of apples to China a year, according to a Radio New Zealand report.

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