By DAN WHEAT
The first pears from the United States to be sold in China have arrived there from Duckwall Fruit in Hood River, Ore., according to The Pear Bureau Northwest in Portland.
That Feb. 22 shipment was followed by one from Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., that reached China Feb. 28.
The sales mark the beginning of what the Pacific Northwest pear industry hopes becomes an important export market.
Kevin Moffitt, president and CEO of The Pear Bureau, anticipates 40,000, 44-pound boxes of Northwest pears will be sold in China through April and perhaps 150,000 boxes next year. He foresees 300,000 boxes within three years, making it the fifth largest export market behind Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Russia, surpassing Colombia.
"It took nearly 20 years of effort on the part of The Pear Bureau and our partners to see this historic access to China, and we sincerely thank the Northwest Horticultural Council and Louis Ng and Associates (a marketing firm) for their good work," Moffitt said.
An agreement was reached during annual U.S.-China phytosanitary technical bilateral talks in Napa, Calif., Sept. 25-27. Finalization of the agreement was announced Jan. 23 at North Central Washington Pear Day in Wenatchee by Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima.
The agreement also allows Chinese Sand pears into the United States. Willett said he doesn't know of any arriving yet. China is eager to begin shipping Sand pears here and the first likely will arrive in Los Angeles or Oakland to serve Asian consumers, said Jeff Correa, international marketing director at The Pear Bureau. Most Chinese Ya and Fragrant pears already coming to the U.S. serve Asian communities in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, he said.
About 3,000 boxes of Green and Red d'Anjou pears from Hood River were imported by Dalian Yidu Group and unloaded in Dalian Feb. 22 with a greeting ceremony officiated by Liu Yan, deputy mayor of Dalian, Sean Stein, consul general of the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang and Lou Vanechanos, Asia Pacific director of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The event was covered by Dalian television, major local newspapers, China Daily and other media nationwide, The Pear Bureau said. A Feb. 25 media briefing in Beijing generated more coverage, the bureau said.
The Stemilt shipment went to Shanghai. Stemilt declined comment on the volume and its plans.
Correa said Duckwall Fruit and Stemilt were the first U.S. companies to make sales to Chinese importers and arrange 21-day ocean shipments from the Port of Seattle.
Fred Duckwall said his company will not ship more pears to China this season but plans to next season.
"It won't be huge at the onset anymore than we are here for them," Duckwall said. "There are differences in culture and developing tastes. They are not use to the quality of American pears there, but it will be a market we can appreciate."
The Chinese like red pears, which is good for Red d' Anjou and Starkrimson, he said.
Correa said some shippers may wait until they have fresher fruit next season to avoid risk of fruit arriving in China with decay.
The Pear Bureau has begun in-store promotions in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou and is training retailers to know when Northwest pears are ripe. The Pear Bureau is spending about $100,000 on promotions and training this season and may double that next season, Correa said.