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China opens doors to Northwest pears

China has granted market access to the American pear industry, and prospects are thrilling to producers in the Pacific Northwest. “U.S. pears were granted access into China in January,” said Jeff Correa, international marketing director for the Pear Bureau Northwest. “A few containers were shipped in the 2012-13 season. The 2013-14 season will be the first full season where U.S.-grown pears will be able to enter China legally. The Pear Bureau’s expectations for the Chinese market will be around 120,000 to 150,000 boxes in the first full season, which would make China a top 10 export market for the Northwest pear industry. China is also expected to be the top red pear market, with potentially 50 percent of the shipments being red-skinned pear varieties.”

The U.S. Pear Road Show will kick off producers’ first full season in China. “The road show will be a mobile learning center that will drive around and set-up outside of major retailers and schools in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou from late November to February,” Correa said.

Other hot, developing markets can be found in South America and Central America. “With the recent free trade agreements in Central America and Colombia, there has been steady growth in the pear exports to those markets,” Correa told The Produce News. “The duty-free access has put us on the same competitive plane as Chile in these markets, and we have seen an expansion of our market window since the free trade agreements has been implemented. Additionally, the range of pear varieties has also expanded over that same time period as these varieties are now relatively cheaper for consumers than they were previously.”

According to Correa, markets in India and the Middle East are also showing good growth and future potential.

The top export markets for last year’s pear crop were Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Colombia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and India. “Exports reached a new record high in value, surpassing $200 million for the first time in industry history,” Correa commented. “The export value reached the second highest totals, surpassing 165,000 metric tons or 8.25 million boxes.  In total, exports accounted for about 42 percent of the total crop.”

Among the top export destinations, Correa said Mexico imported 66,594 metric tons, Brazil imported 7,775 metric tons, Russia imported 7,431 metric tons, and Colombia imported 5,054 metric tons.

He expects there will be more smaller-sized pears and a higher percentage of Fancy and 3rd grade pears this season. “This should open up more export opportunities in nearly all of the export markets,” he stated. “With more Fancy and 3rd grade pears, there should be more exports to South America and Russia. Most of the export markets prefer medium to small size pears.”

The Pear Bureau, along with the Washington apple and California grape industries, will expand its LazyTown promotion in Panama and Costa Rica. “LazyTown is a children’s television program that airs worldwide and features Sportacus, a hero who eats ‘Sportscandy,’ also known as fruits and vegetables, to power his very active lifestyle. It will feature retailer promotions, POS materials support, character appearances and some PR activities in San Jose, Costa Rica and Panama City, Panama. The timing will be November to early December.”

The Pear Bureau will also take the lead in the new U.S. Fresh Fruit Training program. “It will be translated and launched in eight languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian,” Correa commented. “The training program has three tracks: importer/wholesaler staff track, retailer produce staff track and retailer produce manager track.”