The Washington apple industry has suffered a drastic reduction in exports to Indonesia, with exports down 70 per cent since November and 50 per cent across the whole of the season.
As of 15 March this year, US apple exports to Indonesia totalled around 575,000 cartons, compared to 1.1m a year ago. The previous annual norm for apple exports had been 2.5m cartons, mainly of the Red Delicious variety, as Indonesia does not produce any of its own apples and this brand has proved particularly popular among consumers.
According to Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Indonesia is pursuing protectionist policies against imports of many items from many countries as it heads into its 2014 presidential election.
These policies involve quotas, licensing and cold storage mandates on importers. Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, has said that all of these violate free trade.
Indonesia's stance regarding imports has also impacted on US exports of grapes and citrus.
Powers told the Washington Apple Commission at the end of March that assistance from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) offers the only evident means to abate the situation.
After failed diplomatic efforts, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) initiated a WTO consultation in January, which was unsuccessful in February. The USTR is now seeking a WTO panel.
Powers believes that it could take more than a year to reach a resolution.
China’s decision to close its borders to US apple exports in August last year, alleging post-harvest diseases, is also damaging trade for the industry.