Beginning Jan. 18, Chinese sand pears can be imported into the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a December final rule that Chinese sand pears grown may be imported if harvested and packed with safeguards to prevent infestations of pests.

The USDA said China expects to export 24,000 metric tons of sand pears annually to the U.S. That accounts for less than 5% of the average annual production of all varieties of pears produced in the U.S., according to the USDA.

A number of trade issues remain for both countries, with U.S. pear exporters looking for access for U.S. pears in China and Chinese apple exporters vying for approval of Chinese apples in the U.S. market, said Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash. Powers said that bilateral meetings in California with Chinese and U.S. officials in September explored those issues and others. A pest risk assessment on Chinese apple imports could be issued by the USDA next year, Powers said.

Meanwhile, Powers said there are hopes at U.S. pears may be eligible for export to China by the 2013 harvest season.