“The dollar exchange hasn’t changed much, and our products are very attractive to these export markets,” he said, adding pears are a “huge export item” in high demand.
Mexico is the largest export market for Northwest pears, last year having taken 3.5 million 44-pound equivalent cartons, according to Dan Kelly, assistant manager with the Washington Growers Clearing House, Wenatchee. Canada was second, at 1.4 million.
Brazil took 525,000 cartons, which was a 58% jump from the year before, Kelly said.
Russia has been a bigger player among Northwest pear recipients, taking 345,000 boxes last year, Kelly said.
Russia, which is on a course to join the World Trade Organization by the end of the summer, likely will increase its imports of Northwest pears as it lowers its tariff from 10% to 5% as part of the process, said Mark Powers, vice president of the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council.
“It’s not a huge amount, but everything counts,” Powers said.
To further encourage increased pear shipments to Russia, Congress needs to pass permanent normalized trade relations with Russia, Powers said.
“Hopefully, Congress will do that when they return from their August recess,” Powers said.
Vigorous market access to India for Nothwest pears — India received 148,000 cartons a year ago, Kelly said — has been accomplished in spite of a 30% tariff.
“That doesn’t really have a chance of coming off in the near term,” Powers said of the tariff.
An untapped export opportunity is China, Powers said, adding that the industry continues to press for access to that market.
“We appear to be getting closer in terms of getting a work plan in place,” he said.
He said he was not sure whether any of the 2012 Northwest pear crop will make it to China.
“It’s very hard to predict how the regulatory branches of foreign governments will make progress or not and what the timelines are, but hopefully we’ll see something in place within the next year,” Powers said.