China progress for apples, citrus, beef, poultry

Dan Wheat/Capital Press Joel Mendez Rodriguez clips stems while harvesting Fuji apples in a Stemilt AgServices orchard near Quincy, Wash., on Oct. 10.Talks between the U.S. and China could result in U.S. apples being exported to China.

The 24th U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting resulted in progress toward regaining access for U.S. apples, citrus fruit, beef and poultry, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says.

The two sides agreed to keep talking about restoring U.S. beef access by mid-2014. An approval process for biotechnology products and lifting a ban on poultry from four states due to avian influenza were also discussed.

The meeting ended Dec. 23 in Beijing.

“This is an important confirmation of what we’ve been told at lower levels,” said Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash. He had hoped China might reopen to U.S. apples in time for January shipments of Washington Red and Golden Delicious apples for the Chinese New Year.

However, too much remains to be done — mainly Chinese visits to Washington apple packing sheds — for January to remain viable, he said.

Beyond that, “I don’t want to speculate,” Schlect said.

China cut off Reds and Goldens in August 2012, citing detection of post-harvest diseases that it wants kept out of its apples. Washington industry officials believe the real reason was to pressure the U.S. into accepting Chinese apples. The U.S. has started a process toward possible acceptance of Chinese apples and is working to gain access in China for all U.S. varieties.

Washington typically shipped about 500,000 boxes of apples annually to China before the 2012 closure and about 2 million through Hong Kong.

The Beijing meeting was co-chaired by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and China Vice Premier Wang Yang.

“My discussions with Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese leaders laid the groundwork for future cooperation related to our shared interests in food security, food safety and sustainability, as well as expansion of export opportunities for American farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said in a news release.

Vilsack and Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu discussed revising a memorandum of understanding on science and technology cooperation in agriculture. The two countries committed to hold a second High Level Agricultural Symposium in 2014 with support from the U.S.-China Agriculture and Food Partnership.


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