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Last spring, the Chinese government requested access to the U.S. market for its sand pear (Pyrus pyrifolia), which is the Japanese Nashi Asian pear. U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will conduct an assessment and go through the rule-making process in order to determine if sand pears should be allowed into this country and, if so, how.

China is already allowed to ship Ya pears to the United States and is expected to begin shipping fragrant pears this fall.

Powers said under current rules, APHIS must conduct a separate pest-risk assessment for each variety of a fruit, but the agency has issued a federal register notice seeking to change the process it needs to go through when evaluating commodities for import.

Powers said he did not know how long it might take for the U.S. government to reach a decision on the import of sand pears.

The Tree Fruit Technical Advisory Council has told the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that it opposes any further access for Chinese pears until China agrees to allow imports of U.S. pears. China has refused access because of the risk of fireblight.

“The standard response [of the USDA] is they don’t link one product to another,” Powers said. “We’re going to be doing our best to make sure our pears get access into China as soon as possible, and on the flip side making sure pests and diseases that might be on Chinese pears aren’t allowed into this country.”

Dr. Ken Johnson, plant pathologist at Oregon State University, is concluding a three-year project that indicates that mature, symptomless pears don’t transmit the fireblight pathogen.

“We believe there’s enough information from the initial research to support the government moving forward and re-energizing the negotiations,” Powers said. “APHIS has agreed, and they have agreed to put our request for access back on the agenda next time they meet with the Chinese.”

Powers said he did not know when the next bilateral talks would be held.