An exporter said Thursday that it had canceled a large order from Taiwan for Washington apples because of concerns about the health effects of the chemical Alar, the latest sign of slowing sales because of the controversy.
W. L. H. Group of Seattle this week canceled an order for 5,000 boxes of Washington apples and may not order any more U.S. apples the rest of the season, said Sue Lin, an employee in the Seattle office.
Taiwanese consumers have stopped buying U.S. apples after hearing alarming news accounts about Alar, she said.
“Everybody is scared about that (Alar),” Lin said in a telephone interview. “The market has become real bad.”
Taiwan is the largest offshore importer of Washington apples, buying about 50,000 42-pound boxes a week, according to the Northwest Horticultural Council.
Lin said her company’s weekly orders are worth about $70,000. The selling season extends into August, so the loss to Washington growers could top $1.5 million.
That is a fairly small amount compared to the $312 million that the 5,000 growers in Washington earned last year. But it is also the most disturbing sign that the Alar controversy is hurting the industry.
Alar, made by Uniroyal Chemical Co., is a growth regulator that is sprayed on trees to make the apples hang longer.