China looks at pear exchange
Deal would depend on U.S. accepting Chinese Sand variety
By DAN WHEAT
China apparently is willing to allow U.S. pears into its markets next fall in exchange for getting its Sand pears into the United States, according to a representative of the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry.
China indicated its willingness during annual bilateral plant commodity trade talks with the U.S. in Kona, Hawaii, Nov. 16-18, said Mike Willett, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima. The council represents the Northwest tree fruit industry in national and international policy issues often involving trade.
The talks were between the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and China's Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine. Willett was not in the actually meetings but was on hand at the meeting site as a resource.
The U.S. government told China that there's probably too much process to work through to open the markets by next fall, Willett said.
"One would hope it would be more likely for 2012, but it's hard to say until we know what the issues are," Willett said. There have been pest concerns on both sides. Often such concerns slow developments.
Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, Ore., called it the most positive step forward for U.S. pear access into China since the bureau began working on the issue in the early 1990s.
China first cited fire blight concerns in keeping U.S. pears out, he said. That was addressed by studies that showed fire blight is not carried on live, symptomless fruit, he said.
"I'm excited. This is one of the last big markets out there. It could turn into a top five or top 10 market very quickly with access," Moffitt said. "There's some indication of movement of our pears into China through Hong Kong, so we think demand is there."
China has exported Fragrant and Ya pears to the U.S. for a number of years, but not at a tremendous volume. U.S. consumers like U.S. pears and it would take a lot of Chinese pears to affect the U.S. pear market, Moffitt said.
No breakthroughs appear imminent in U.S. efforts to gain access for more apple varieties in China, Willett said. China allows Red and Golden Delicious but not other varieties. China wants access for its apples into the U.S.
The U.S. gave China an updated list of pest concerns about Chinese apples, Willett said. It was much larger than the previous list issued in 2003, he said. China is to present the U.S. with an additional list of its concerns about U.S. apples in January, he said.
Such talks led to U.S. cherry access to China in the late 1990s. Shipments have grown to 1 million 20-pound boxes in the last five years, according to Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima.
China reportedly wanted to talk about modifying the U.S. cherry export protocol, Willett said in September. Last week, there was no specific discussion about that, he said.