Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2011 10:00 AM
Dan Wheat/Capital Press
Fuji apples float from bins into the entry of the packing line at C and M Packing, East Wenatchee, Wash., on Jan. 19. Washington apple packers work year-round and ship apples around the world. This season sales have increased to Jordan.
Commission president surprised that more of the fruit not sold to Iraq
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Jordan continues to buy more Washington apples but consumes most of them, reselling far fewer into Iraq than the president of the Washington Apple Commission thought.
Todd Fryhover, commission president met with traders in Jordan in mid-February and found 90 percent of the Washington apples going into Jordan are consumed there.
It surprised Fryhover. With a population of just 6 million people and a per capita income of between $2,000 and $5,200, Jordan didn't strike Fryhover as a country likely to buy higher-priced Washington apples. Dubai traders had told him much of the Washington fruit was being resold into Iraq. But only about 10 percent is, he said.
Fryhover's interest in Jordan was piqued because sales to Jordan have increased significantly since September.
As of Feb. 15, 124,387 boxes of Washington apples had been sold to Jordan, up 67 percent from the 74,349 a year ago, he said. About 70 percent of that is Red Delicious, 20 percent is Gala and 10 percent is split between Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, he said. There is no duty on U.S. apples into Jordan because of a free trade agreement, but there is a 5 percent tariff on imports into Iraq, he said.
Fryhover said he met with one Jordanian trader who trucks fruits and vegetables into Iraq from Jordan and Dubai. An unknown amount of Washington apples enters Iraq from Dubai via Kuwait.
"I think there is a fair amount (from Dubai into Iraq), but no one can tell me how much. I get vague answers, but this guy told me you can see Washington apples in there (Iraq) every day," Fryhover said.
The trader said Washington has to drop its prices if it really wants to compete because apples from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan sell for about $1.50 a kilo in Iraq versus $2.50 for Washington apples, Fryhover said.
Washington shippers won't do that this season because they have better alternatives, he said.
About 30 to 35 percent of the Washington apples in Jordan are sold in Miles, C-Town, Carrefor and Plaza super markets, which are mainly in the capital city of Amman, Fryhover said. The rest are sold in smaller neighborhood markets in the urban area.
While apples bear a shipper's label, many don't bear the Washington apple logo, Fryhover said. He said he's thinking of a consumer education pilot program for a season or two to build consumer awareness of Washington apples to maintain and build sales.
"I think we can grow Jordan. We want to make sure they know it's Washington apples they are eating when they make that choice," he said. "Right now stickers say American apples, and half the time they're not."
The apple commission, he said, also will continue to try to get point-of-sale materials into Iraq from Dubai. A lack of financial systems and the risk of not getting paid has kept Washington shippers from doing direct business into Iraq, he said.