“You’ve got tremendous retail growth, you’ve wide diversification across the varietal manifest as well as the size manifest,” he said. “There’s a home for almost everything we grow in Mexico.”
The second largest market for U.S. apple exports was Canada, which purchased $224 million in U.S. apples from August 2012 to June 2013. Exports to Canada were up 39% in value and 37% in volume in the most recent season. Canada accounted for 18% of all U.S. fresh apple exports.
Other markets in the top five for apple exports include India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to the USDA.
Industry leaders believe China is a future top-rung market, though the country currently has imposed barriers on Washington apple exports.
The top trade objective for the apple industry is to secure access to the Chinese market, said Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council.
Red and golden delicious apples had been going in to China but are now prevented access because of phytosanitary issues, he said. The industry wants to solve those issues to win back access for reds and golden and also expand that list of approved varieties.
China has requested access for its apples in the U.S. market, and Schlect said that the back and forth talks over pest risk assessments are ongoing.
“We as an industry have taken the position if they satisfy APHIS pest and disease issues, they should be treated like any other country,” he said.
The U.S. already receives apples from Chile, New Zealand, Canada and other countries, so apple marketers are used to foreign competition.
Apple industry leaders said Washington growers could compete well with Chinese apple imports to the U.S., having already competed with Chinese competition in markets like India and Vietnam.
Washington has the premier image in the world for quality fruit and demand for the state’s apples is great, said Steve Reisenauer, sales manager of Sage Fruit Co., said. Asia, India and Mexico are still promising markets for growth, he said.
Another shipper agreed.
“We grow a product that cannot be duplicated around the world,” said Mac Riggan, vice president of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan.
With the middle class growing in India and China, there will be increasing export business for Washington apples because of their unique and superior product, he said.
“Our volume will probably grow faster than those economies, but eventually we will find equilibrium,” he said.