Washington apple growers aim to double Chinese exports

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-1 23:33:01

US-China deal in late Jan expands market access for all types

Customers buy apples at a supermarket in Central China's Hubei Province. Photo: IC

Apple growers in the US state of Washington, the largest apple-growing region in the country, will see their exports to China doubling within two years after the two countries expanded market access for apples, the president of the Washington Apple Commission (WAC) said over the weekend.

An agreement reached between US and Chinese officials in late January has for the first time granted mutual market access for all varieties of apples, which will be realized in the next few weeks, Lou Vanechanos, Asia-Pacific regional manager of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), told a media briefing on Friday.

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the USDA reached a deal in San Francisco on January 23, which allows all varieties of US apples to be shipped to China and all types of Chinese apples to be exported to the US.

"With the full access for all apple varieties, we expect our annual exports to China will increase to 5 million cartons within two years from 2.5 million cartons in 2011," said Todd Fryhover, president of the WAC, which represents 75 percent of the country's apple production and 95 percent of the country's apple exports.

China had only allowed imports of Red Delicious and Golden Delicious varieties from the US since 1994, but suspended the shipment in August 2012 due to the repeated interception of three apple pests. The AQSIQ lifted the suspension in October 2014.

Red Delicious apple imports from Washington state is now sold at 19.8 yuan ($3.2) per kilogram in US retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc's more than 400 outlets in China, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

"The price is competitive, as prices of Chinese apples have risen significantly in the past year due to growing production costs, lower output and traders' speculation," Liu Hongmin, an apple grower in Qixia, East China's Shandong Province, the country's major apple production base, told the Global Times Sunday.

The average wholesale price of China's homegrown apples was 9.31 yuan per kilogram as of Friday, up 21 percent year-on-year, according to China Fruit Marketing Association.

In the consumer market, apples are usually sold between 12 and 30 yuan per kilogram.

Regaining access to China will help boost sales for US apple farmers, who have been hit by Russia's ban on the imports of US agricultural products, an anti-dumping investigation in Mexico, and the strengthening of the US dollar against other major currencies, experts said.

Mexico has been the largest export destination for Washington apples since 2013, according to the WAC. However, the country launched an anti-dumping investigation on Washington apples in December 2014 after local apple growers claimed US rivals sold apples in Mexico at less than fair value in 2013.

With this new agreement with China, the US apple industry estimates that within two years, exports to China will reach nearly $100 million per year, the USDA said in a statement on January 26.

Although the deal also opens the US market to Chinese-grown apples, some Chinese growers expressed cautious optimism.

"We've already shipped pears to the US market, and the deal will bring us new opportunities as the US market has demand for imported Fuji apples," Huang Yue, deputy manager of Wanrong Huarong Fruit Co in North China's Shanxi Province, told the Global Times Sunday.

"But exporting apples is not easy because the US has strict standards on apples' pest risk assessment," he said.

One of the greatest concerns among US apple growers regarding imports has been the potential introduction of foreign pests and diseases into their orchards, the US Apple Association, a national trade association, said in a statement on January 26.

According to Liu, the Shandong-based apple grower, the province's apple exports have also become affected since 2014 due to rising prices.

"We used to export apples to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but high prices have made many overseas merchants stop buying," he said.

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