When the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement was approved, it removed tariffs on many U.S. products, including the 24% import duty on fresh cherries.
As a result, imports of Northwestern cherries has soared to $13.2 million for the first five months of 2012 compared with $8.3 million for the same period in 2011, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news blog.
Working with the Northwest Cherry Growers, Wenatchee, Wash., large Korean retailers have staged retail promotions of U.S. cherries.
The promotions were partly underwritten by the USDA's Market Access Program and Market Development program.
Lotte Mart, a large Korean discount chain, reported U.S. fresh cherries were the top selling imported fruit in June, accounting for 36 percent of sales and surpassing even bananas.
The total value of cherry sales was three times higher than in June 2011.
Another large Korean chain, E-Mart, began directly importing U.S. cherries through a partnership with Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee.