Pacific Northwest pear industry has sought China access for 18 years
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- An agreement allowing the first fresh U.S.-grown pears into China and Chinese Sand pears into the United States has been finalized, an industry official says.
The agreement was announced last fall after it was reached during the annual U.S.-China phytosanitary technical bilateral talks in Napa, Calif., on Sept. 25-27.
Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs of the Northwest Horticultural Council, said he is awaiting imminent confirmation of the finalization from USDA.
Finalization of the agreement was announced in the heart of U.S. pear country at North Central Washington Pear Day at the Wenatchee Convention Center. The Wenatchee District is the national leader in pear production and the meeting for growers is co-sponsored by Washington State University Extension and The Pear Bureau Northwest.
"A formal signing ceremony may be planned at some time here," Willett said. "This allows China's GAQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine) to issue import permits."
The Pacific Northwest pear industry has been working for China access for 18 years.
Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, Ore., called it great news and said he expects few shipments to China this season but perhaps as much as 150,000 boxes next year and 300,000 boxes in three years.
"It will be a significant market, probably in the top five within three years," he said.
Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Russia and Colombia are currently the top markets for Pacific Northwest pears. Washington and Oregon account for 94 percent of U.S. fresh pear exports, and California the remainder.
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 Hood River 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.
China received U.S. access for Ya pears in 1997. It was suspended in 2003 for a fungal disease and reopened in 2005. The Fragrant pear also is allowed but both varieties are small in volume to the U.S. compared with imports from Argentina and Chile, Moffitt said. The Sand pear likely will be small in numbers, he said.
Protocols for Chinese imports of U.S. pears call for control of codling moth, fire blight and four postharvest decay organisms, Willett said.
"The goal for us will be delivery of fruit to China free of those things," he said. "I think it's doable. It's management of pests in the field and inspections in packing houses the same as we do for shipment to anywhere in the world."