Belgium will become first country with pear access to China

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

Technical bilateral talks between the United States and China on plant health issues have been delayed from mid-September to mid-November.

The annual talks include trade of apples, pears, cherries, potatoes, wood products and many other items. China requested the delay but gave no reason for it, said Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash. Such delays are not unusual, he said.

The talks have been reset for Nov. 16-18 in Kona, Hawaii, he said.

Willett will represent the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry at the meeting but the talks are between the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and China's Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregorie is currently on a trade mission to China and other Asian nations. Willett said he does not believe that trip had anything to do with the AQSIQ delay. The governors of California and Minnesota have also been in China on trade missions.

U.S. Red and Golden Delicious apples are allowed into China. Washington producers want to see other varieties allowed in but oppose Chinese Fuji apples being allowed into the U.S.

Access to China is a high priority of The Pear Bureau Northwest of Portland, Ore., but China has linked that to access of its Sand pears into the U.S., Willett said. There are pest concerns on both sides, he said.

Belgium this fall will become the first country to gain pear access to China, Willett said.

"They came up with an agreement. We don't know what the terms are. We are trying to find out through a number of different sources," he said.

"Gaining access to China has been a high priority for us for many years. It has the potential to be a top export market for Northwest pears," said Cristie Mather, spokeswoman of The Pear Bureau.

The annual talks led to U.S. cherry access to China in the late 1990s, but progress on health concerns, often involving pests, is slow.

This year, China wants to talk about modifying the U.S. cherry export protocol but have not said how, Willett said.

B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima, said he also does not know what the Chinese are thinking but that Washington growers want to keep expanding that market which has gone from nothing to 1 million boxes in the last five years.

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