“I would anticipate export growth this season,” he said.
Russia is the third-largest export market for U.S. pears, and shipments there have climbed from $3.4 million in 2006 to $12.2 million in 2010.
However, exports of U.S. pears to Russia from January through June 2011 were off 16% compared with the same period in 2010.
Barriers to growth
Powers said the top priority for pear exporters has been winning access to the Chinese market.
“That’s been the one that has been the priority for the pear industry,” he said.
He noted that China has access for a couple types of pears in the U.S. market, while the U.S. has not been able to ship any of its pears to China despite having access for apples.
“We have been after market access there since the mid-1990s,” Powers said.
While pears are at the top of the priority list, there is still work to do, he said.
Australia and Japan also are markets where pears are not given access, but those markets also have denied access to apples, Powers said.
Before pears can hope to sell to those markets, apple access may have to come first.
Powers said one of the hurdles that the pear industry faces in gaining access to China is that other countries with fireblight have agreed to unreasonable restrictions on trade, thus setting a precedent that may be hard to break.
Kevin Moffitt, president of the Northwest Pear Bureau, Milwaukie, Ore., said China would be an attractive market if marketers could win access.
“Even though studies have shown that trees can get fireblight from pears, they are holding us out,” he said.
Beside the markets in Mexico and Canada, Moffitt said that India and Indonesia have shown signs of growth.
While central Europe is not a big market, Moffitt said there are interesting signs of potential there.
Beyond phytosanitary barriers to exports, Mike Willett, vice president for scientific affairs for the Northwest Horticulture Council, said grower-shippers also are concerned about redundant audits for food safety practices.
One tree fruit in Washington operation had 37 food safety audits last year.