(UPDATED April 23) Beginning in late May, China’s fresh apples can be shipped to the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 22.
The 65-page USDA rule, published in the April 23 Federal Register, will be effective May 26.
The move, long sought after by Chinese officials, is expected to result in a corresponding move by China to allow more U.S. apple varieties into that country, according to Mark Powers, vice president of the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council. Currently only red and golden delicious U.S. apples can be exported to China.
“This is what we have been anticipating for a number of months now,” Power said. “It is our understanding is that when the (USDA rule) goes into effect, that the Chinese also will be issuing import permits for additional apple varieties to exported directly into China.”
In response to the opening of the U.S. market, China is expected to open its market to all states and all varieties of U.S. apples.
Powers said expanded access to the Chinese market will boost U.S. apple exports.
“We’ve got a big crop and we are looking to China to export some of that crop, so it is good news,” he said.
Expansion of trade with China is a positive, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of marketing for Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa.
“If the market is going to open, we are very glad to see it open in both directions,” Briggs said.  “We hope that it leads to good trade and no phytosanitary issues here in the (U.S.).”
Jim Allen, president of the Fishers, N.Y.-based New York Apple Association, said the fact that China has already imported more than 750,000 bushels of Washington red and golden delicious apples since October points to the importance of the market. 
“That’s an indication of what can happen for all varieties,” he said. “We need more markets and we need to expand our reach across the world and you got to have China in that mix to make it happen.”
The USDA said that as a condition of entry, Chinese apples will have to be inspected for pests in orchards and in packinghouses. Apples from areas in China in which the Oriental fruit fly is known to exist may be shipped to the U.S. only if the apples are treated with fumigation and refrigeration, according to the USDA.
The USDA said it is unlikely that allowing Chinese apples to access the U.S. market will cost the U.S. apple industry or consumers. “Moreover, trade with China represents an opportunity for potential expansion of the U.S. export market and the benefits associated with such an expansion,” the USDA said in the rule.
The USDA said that it expects no more than 10,000 metric tons of fresh apples will be imported from China, which represents less than 0.4% of the U.S. fresh apply supply and less than 5% of U.S. apple imports. 
“Most of China’s fresh apple exports to the United States will likely be shipped to West Coast ports, primarily ones in California, and are expected to be distributed through Asian ethnic supermarkets mainly to Asian communities,” the USDA said.
Any effects from the rule may be mainly borne by Washington and California growers, particularly producers of fuji apples, according to the agency. The majority of fresh apples from China are fujis.
The USDA said that the agency received 128 comments on its proposed rule, and talked to a variety of apple groups about the rule, including The U.S. Apple Export Council, the U.S. Apple Association, the Washington Apple Commission, the Northwest Horticultural Council, and the Apple Commodity Committee of Northwest Fruit Exporters.