While the Russian Far East is generally more price conscious still, the western Russian market will take a mix of sizes and quality.
Moffitt said U.S. pear exports to Russia are the smooth-skinned green anjou, which is a variety not widely grown in Europe.
“What we are trying to do is get people to ripen it before they eat it because it can be a sweeter and juicier pear than some of the varieties shipped in there, like the conference pear,” he said. “We have more upside potential as we get retailers to understand that riper fruit will sell better.”
Moffitt said the pear bureau is considering conducting seminars about the benefits of preripening pears.
Northwest pear exporters ship a little less than half of their Russia-bound fruit to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East and the rest to fast-growing and generally more affluent western Russia. Distribution in western Russia flows from the port of St. Petersburg to Moscow and interior regions of the country.
Moffitt said Russia’s Far East is growing, and western Russia offers more promise in coming years.
“That’s where a lot of the imported fruit is being sold. They have the infrastructure and that sort of thing,” he said.
Moffitt said supermarket development in Russia has exploded since 1994.
“I think the supermarkets are really helping to drive a lot of the import business too,” he said.
Meanwhile, the value of exports of fresh California grapes jumped from $576,000 in 2006 to $3.7 million in 2007, according to USDA export statistics. The USDA reports that U.S. fresh grape exports totaled about 258,000 18-pound cartons in 2007, up from just 41,000 cartons in 2006.
Susan Day, vice president of international marketing for the California Table Grape Commission, Fresno, said grape exports have been increasing in Russia market for about three years.
“There is a lot of future potential there, because of the still relatively underdeveloped retail sector,” she said.