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The Pear Bureau Northwest is giving this framed God of Fortune poster to Chinese importers to demonstrate the profit opportunities for U.S. pears.

The Pear Bureau Northwest is giving this framed God of Fortune poster to Chinese importers to demonstrate the profit opportunities for U.S. pears.

Photo courtesy of Pear Bureau Northwest

U.S. pear producers were allowed to ship fresh pears to China for the first time in January and hope it will soon become a significant market.

Pears are allowed from Washington, Oregon, and California. Shippers wanting to export to China must register first. The Pear Bureau Northwest is handling registrations this season.

Kevin Moffitt, Pear Bureau president, said 18 shippers in Washington and Oregon signed up to export pears during the remainder of the 2012-2013 season and he expects to see even more interest during the next crop year.

“We think China will crack the top ten markets probably within the first full season of shipping, next year, and we think it will easily reach 200,000 to 300,000 boxes within three years,” he said.

The Pacific Northwest exports about 7 million boxes of pears annually, of which about half go to Canada and Mexico.

Moffitt expects China to become a particularly good market for the red d’Anjou pear. Production of the variety has grown to a million boxes.

“It will be healthy to have an export market that can take potentially a tenth of the red d’Anjou crop,” Moffitt said. “It’s very exciting.”

The pear industry has been working towards access in China for about 20 years. The U.S. government made its first official request for access in 1994. The breakthrough came when U.S. and Chinese negotiators hammered out an agreement during bilateral talks in California in September 2012. It is a reciprocal agreement that allows China to ship sand pears into the United States. China already has access for its ya and fragrant pears.


China sent a letter to the U.S. government on January 21 confirming the immediate opening of the market. Producers must meet several requirements.

Pests: All orchards involved must use good agricultural practices, including orchard sanitation and integrated pest management, under the guidance of a state-licensed pest control advisor, and must provide pest monitoring and control records upon request.

Diseases: Orchards must be monitored for the postharvest decay pathogens Neofabraea malicortis (bull’s-eye rot), Phialophora malorum (side rot), Sphaeropsis pyriputrescens (speck rot), and Potebniamyces pyri (phacidiopycnis rot). If detected, those diseases must be controlled with fungicides and horticultural practices. Packing houses must apply postharvest disease controls. If any of those diseases are detected during export inspection, the shipment will be rejected, and the orchardist will not be allowed to export to China for the rest of the season.

Pear rust diseases: Orchards must be monitored for the pathogens Gymnosporangium clavipes, G. fuscum, and G. globosum, which must be controlled if found.

Fireblight: Pears must come from orchards that use monitoring and models to predict when to control the disease.

Inspection: Each pear in 2 percent of the cartons in a shipment must be inspected. A minimum of 1,200 pears must be inspected, regardless of the size of the shipment and the sampled cartons must be representative of the shipment. In addition, at least 40 fruit must be cut for inspection.

Fireblight, which China says it does not have, was a sticking point for many years. Several years ago, U.S. scientists proved that mature, symptomless fruit do not carry the fireblight bacterium, which meant that the disease was unlikely to become established there as a result of importing U.S. pears.

Moffitt said Chinese importers have shown a lot of interest in U.S. pears. U.S. producers have been able in the past to ship pears to Hong Kong, which is the eighth largest export market and growing. Shipments to Hong Kong during the 2011-2012 season totaled 131,000 boxes, up about 30 percent from the previous year. Moffitt said it’s suspected that some of the fruit is transshipped into China.

The Pear Bureau, which promotes Northwest pears under the USA logo, has a representative in Hong Kong who has conducted consumer research in anticipation of the China market opening. The bureau set aside funding for promotions, which for this season will consist mainly of outreach to importers who already handle Washington apples and in-store promotions with key retailers in the major cities of Shanghai, ­Beijing, and Guangzhou.

“If we get any major shipments in, we have funds to do sampling,” Moffitt said.

The United States allowed access to sand pears on the same date that the China market opened for U.S. pears. Moffitt said he did not expect the Chinese pears to have a huge impact on the domestic market, although they do have a niche. “They will certainly be getting some shelf space and will compete on the produce department shelves, but we think our exports to China will be much more of a positive impact.”

Moffitt said the pear industry and the Pear Bureau worked with the Northwest Horticultural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to open the market.