East Coast and Midwest apple players are starting to sound more like the West Coast when it comes to exports! Let’s get pumped, and let’s go apple team! Our goal is to increase exports, and we all need to score in foreign markets to grow sales and increase exports NOW!
Washington Apple Commission quarterback Todd Fryhover has been preaching this game plan since I met him a number of years ago in Berlin, and looking at the Washington export numbers over the last few years, I would say that his offense has been successful.
Washington exports have steadily increased over the years despite trade issues that continue to pop up. Our exports have not grown as they should because of crop size and because of trade barriers in one of our prime markets, the European Union.
I chose to comment about apple exports for a few good reasons. Recently, a U.S. Senate letter was sent to Ambassador Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative, spelling out a number of export issues that we all share relating to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. The letter was signed by U.S. senators representing leading apple-growing states, including both Washington and New York, along with Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
I have written in this publication in the past about the importance of leadership collaborating on such important issues as this, for the overall good of the U.S. apple industry. Given the size of Washington export business, Ambassador Froman would have certainly been impressed hearing just from Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray about the TTIP.
But throw in Agricultural Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), and Ag Committee member Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), along with Judiciary Rules Chair Charles Schumer (New York) along with the others, and the message just became much louder and much harder to pass over. The letter was a good score on behalf of the industry and those that represent us.
While the Washington Apple Commission and the Northwest Horticultural Council are heading up the offenses on exports, we all know that the defenses being thrown up by so many in the global markets continue to slow us all down and keep us from our goals. Trade barriers, phytosanitary protocols, tariffs, regulatory standards, and other nontariff barriers continue to push us back. Even now, with the TTIP talks, making sure that both sides are held to the same standards is vital. We cannot provide the European Union with any advantages to reach our markets, while we may be losing advantages to export to Europe.
In the East, we were especially held back by the European Union’s refusal a few years ago to accept fruit treated with morpholine, an emulsifier used in wax coatings for apples. This decision hit us at the worst possible time with little notice or time to react. This year, the European Union is at it again with ridiculously low maximum residue levels for the antioxidant DPA (diphenylamine). As a result, our export window could be greatly reduced, and the risks will positively be higher.
On top of that, millions have been invested to create DPA-free environments for Europe-bound apples. Another important market, Israel, is now demanding research to prove that we can mitigate all growth stages of apple maggot. Curses on the maggot, but we have it! The fact that a number of those growth stages would never find its way into an apple carton seems irrelevant to them. But, since Israel is a valued export market, we have to adjust and meet the demands of the marketplace, or walk away. We are doing the research.
Are there other options for the industry to consider? Cut exports and increase domestic sales? Is that a realistic choice? Based on what Washington harvested last year, and what the East and Midwest harvested this year, and considering that one of these years (maybe 2014), everyone could have “The Crop,” stepping away from meeting export requirements is not an option.
So, back to the title of this article: now, more than ever, we need to increase exports, we need to influence our leaders as to what needs to happen to grow foreign sales, and we need full access to emerging markets around the world. It will take more letters, more trips to Washington, D.C., more negotiations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Trade Representative’s office, and more collaboration among exporters across the country.
Although the non-Washington apple states value their export markets, the burden will fall on team Washington to make the biggest impact on increasing export markets. We will do our part, and we want to be in the huddle with you. Who knows, we might even call an audible occasionally. We all need to win at this game. •