apanese and U.S. officials announced today the end of Japan's almost total ban on untreated California fruits and vegetables, a sign that victory is near in the state's war against the Mediterranean fruit fly.
U.S. officials had protested the Japanese embargo when it was announced last year because Japan was the only major buyer to bar fruits from areas of the state not affected by the Medfly.
California growers, who estimate they lost at least $15 million from the Japanese ban, had threatened to organize a counter-boycott of all Japanese manufactured goods.
Today's joint announcement from Tokyo, where state and federal officials had gone to discuss the ban with the Japanese, reduced the Japanese quarantine to the same areas sealed off by the Agriculture Department--Los Angeles County and six counties near the southern half of San Francisco Bay.
Annie Zeller, a spokesman for the Medfly eradication project in Los Gatos, said the federal and state governments plan to lift the quarantine from Los Angeles, Stanislaus and San Benito counties next Tuesday. She said they hope to have all quarantines removed by early September.
The Japanese decision "could not have come at a better time--this is the beginning of the growing season," she said.
State agricultural officials, who have set as many as 70 to 100 traps per square mile to detect new Medflies, have found no sign of the insect since Nov. 20. Aerial spraying to kill the Medflies, whose larvae eat and render unmarketable dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables, has stopped in Los Angeles and is drawing to a close in northern California.
Dick Jackson, the Agriculture Department official who invented the inexpensive Medfly trap being used here, said at a news conference in Los Gatos today that if no flies are found in the next two weeks he would feel very confident the pest had been eradicated in California.
Baker Conrad, of the Council of California Growers, said many growers had shipped citrus fruits and some vegetables across the Pacific Ocean after fumigating or cold treating them as the Japanese demanded.
"But I knew one fellow who fumigated some bell peppers, and they were mush by the time they got over there," Conrad said.