Russian retailers visited the Pacific Northwest the week of Oct. 21 to tour apple and pear packinghouses, orchards and retail stores.

Produce buyers from five Russian retailers made the trip, Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director for the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission, said in a commission news release.

“Our goal was to educate these key decision makers on the high quality of our apples and pears,” Lyons said.

One highlight of the visit, Lyons said, was a tour of a fuji orchard on ATVs. The buyers had the opportunity to pick apples during the tour.

“We wanted these buyers to understand the story behind our apples and pears, and for them to see the care that goes into the harvesting, packing and storage of the fruit,” Ksenia Gorovaya of St. Petersburg, Russia-based Crisp Consulting, said in the release.

Crisp Consulting represents the Washington Apple Commission and Northwest Pear Bureau in Russia.

In addition to tours, the buyers met Washington apple and Northwest pear shippers at networking events.

Although Russian retailers source most of their Washington apples and pears through importers, many of them are looking into buying direct, Lyons said.

Eastern Russia is an established market for Northwest apples and pears, but Western Russia is a relatively new one, Lyons said. The U.S. faces stiff competition in the region from Poland and other countries.

“We need to show why, although our apples are more expensive than some country suppliers, they can create more value to the retailers due to their higher quality in appearance, texture and taste,” Lyons said.

One of the buyers, Vavarva Glushkova of Intertorg ID, was impressed.

“I have a better understanding of the industry, and this gives me more confidence to buy Washington apples and pears.”