When ‘we’ look at the Washington Apple Commission’s Export Program, our focus is drawn to internal growth (overall crop volume) while the priority is diversification of consumer varietal preference to mesh with the state’s production. It’s not only about the quantity the industry exports, but which specific varieties the commission supports with promotion to keep the balance between Washington production and consumer demand.
Every market is important to Washington apple growers, but three lend themselves to support our growth while having opportunity for varietal diversification: China, India, and Russia. China and India are obvious—two of the most populous countries in the world with an exploding middle class. However, Russia is the world’s largest importer of fresh apples and its people loves large sizes. The country imported 17 different Washington apple varieties last year.
In 2010 China will import approximately 750,000 Gala and Granny Smith, and 1.2 million Red Delicious from Washington. The commission believes this volume could triple for varieties in the next five years. Although 750,000 Gala and Granny Smith may not sound like much, remember only Red and Golden Delicious can ‘legally’ be exported direct to China. Today the grey market channel through Hong Kong provides access to the mainland, but our future is direct full-varietal shipments to China (more later).
India imports 97% Red Delicious and could surpass 1.8 million cartons this season. Promotion of ‘other than’ Red Delicious is integral to the commission’s direction with focus on early market Gala sales. India, too, could be a 4- to 5-million-carton market in five years. Russia provides tremendous opportunity for the state because of Russian’s interest in large sizes (56/64/72), as well as their interest in every variety we grow.
I have only touched on three markets today, but as our industry crop volumes increase, the commission’s focus will remain on any and all markets and varietal diversification.