Dissolution of the California Tree Fruit Agreement created opportunity for Washington State stone fruit, says Ingrid Mohn, FAS market development specialist. About $250,000 was redirected to a new market access program for Washington’s stone fruit.
With federal budget cuts looming, the future is murky for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s market access program (MAP) that partners with commodity groups and companies to provide matching export promotion money. But in the short term—at least for the 2012 fiscal year—Northwest cherry and stone fruit growers will have more MAP funds than ever for promotion in export markets.
The Foreign Agricultural Service, the branch of USDA that runs MAP, has approved a first-time program for Washington stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums/prunes).
The Washington State Fruit Commission will receive $250,000 in 2012 to expand stone fruit export markets in Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. The Fruit Commission and shippers will provide matching funds.
Ingrid Mohn, FAS market development specialist, said that the new stone fruit program is one of very few new export programs. “Money was left on the table from the dissolution of the California Tree Fruit Agreement,” she said during the Fruit Commission’s board of director meeting in December in Cle Elum, Washington. “FAS was convinced it was worthy of a gamble because it represents a very small group, which is in vogue under the Obama administration, and the Fruit Commission has a proven management team from carrying out programs for the Northwest Cherry Growers. That put the stone fruit group ahead of other brand-new programs.”
But she encouraged Fruit Commission board members to work to expand the stone fruit program beyond Washington State. For example, the Northwest Cherry Growers represents cherry production in five states. “When looking on a national scale, Washington’s stone fruit industry is a really small group,” she said, adding that rumors are that some California stone fruit growers will approach FAS for export promotion money this year.
“I encourage you to reach out to other states to create a broader base that will in turn be more stable,” Mohn said.
Mohn also shared that the Northwest Cherry Growers received a 9 percent increase in MAP funding for 2012 from the previous year. The cherry promotion group will receive more than $1.3 million for MAP and $60,500 for use in emerging markets.
“Most other groups received 6 percent less in 2012 than they did the previous year. But Northwest cherries got 9 percent more,” she said, adding that Northwest cherries received their highest ever MAP award for several reasons. The program has a high rating of success, an industry economic impact study shows impressive return on investment, and the recent opening of Western Australia for Northwest cherries all worked together to warrant a higher level of funding.
FAS program funds used by Northwest Cherry Growers realize a 41-to-1 return on the investment dollar, according to statistics compiled by Northwest Cherries. Over the last five years, $5.6 million in MAP and emerging market program funds have returned $230 million in taxes to the state and federal economies. Additionally, the 2011 export sales of Northwest cherries, representing more than 31 percent of the total crop, generated a local economic impact of $487 million.
Export sales of Northwest cherries reached a new record in 2011, topping $257 million, based on f.o.b. prices. The volume of Northwest cherry exports last year exceeded 5.7 million 20-pound-equivalent boxes.