JAPAN approved US methods of inspecting apples May 10, a move that could clear the way for imports from American growers by the end of this year.
Japan's ban on American apples has been the focal point of a long-standing trade dispute. US growers say it has cost them at least $150 million in business over the past five years. Japan ostensibly opened its apple market in 1971 but has banned US imports on grounds that US fruit might bring in pests and disease, particularly fire blight. Capable of destroying entire orchards, it has been found in both countries in the past.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sent three inspectors last month to Washington State, where 90 percent of apples for export are grown. It said May 10 they ``found no major technical problem ... in orchard inspection in the United States.''