An agreement in principle has been reached between the United States and China to allow the first U.S. fresh pears into that country next year and a third variety of pears from China, Sand pears, into the U.S.

The Pacific Northwest pear industry has been working for access to China for 18 years. It expects exports to start at about 50,000, 44-pound boxes a year from now and perhaps reach 200,000 boxes in five years, said Kevin Moffitt, president of the Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, Ore.

That would make China the sixth largest export market behind Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Russia and Colombia. Growth of export markets benefits domestic sales and prices, Moffitt said.

“This is great news. Some real forward progress after a long wait but there’s still some hoops,” Moffitt said.

The agreement was reached during the annual U.S.-China phytosanitary technical bilateral talks held in Napa, Calif., Sept. 25-27. More than 20 plant health issues were discussed, said Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash.

Both sides have to do site visits and the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service has some regulatory steps to go through before APHIS and China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine sign final protocols, probably during the next growing season, Powers said.

Bosc and Red and Green d’Anjou will be the main varieties shipped to China with maybe some Starkrimson, Moffitt said. The Wenatchee Valley grows the most d’Anjou and the Hood River area grows the most Bosc.

Larger shippers from Wenatchee, Yakima and Hood River that already export to Taiwan and Hong Kong are most likely to ship to China, Moffitt said.

The U.S. shipped 131,000 boxes of pears to Hong Kong and 89,000 boxes to Taiwan in the 2011 season, he said. Most all of that comes from Washington and Oregon with perhaps a small amount from California.

China won access to the U.S. for its Ya pear in 1997. It was suspended in 2003 for a fungal disease and reopened in 2005. The Fragrant pear was subsequently allowed but volumes of both varieties to the U.S. are small compared with imports from Argentina and Chile, Moffitt said. The Sand pear is not expected to be a large-volume variety either, he said.

“But any time there is a new item you compete with it for shelf space and potential consumer interest,” Moffitt said.

Source: Fresh Plaza Oct 2012

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