Chinese sand pears are knocking, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed in December to let 'em in. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 14, and I noted one skeptical commenter today. Danya Enriquez writes the USDA: 

The importation of new fruits into the United States is great; however after reviewing the proposed rule, there seems to be too much at risk with the importation of Chinese sand pears. There are 16 pests that can possibly be introduced to the United States if proper measures are not followed by the producers, packinghouses and anyone involved in the importation. I think looking into fertility management would perhaps help decrease such risks in the importation of Chinese sand pears. Taking measures such as the pears being in importation in commercial consignments is a great idea because there is definitely less risk of introducing new pests into another country. Perhaps further research on how this will affect pear growers and their fruit in the United States would allow this proposed rule to gain acceptance.

Also known as Asian pears, the Chinese sand pear variety is quite popular in many Asian countries and also has been cultivated in California and a few other states in a limited way since the 1980s.

The USDA's  "initial regulatory flexibility analysis" ("regulatory" and "flexibility" don't go together, do you agree?) on Chinese sand pear imports reveals the fruit is no wilting shrinking violet in terms of volume. The USDA observes:

China expects to export 24,000 metric tons of Chinese sand pear to the United States, but we do not know the quantity or value of Chinese sand pear imported from other countries.  Nor do we know the substitutability of Chinese sand pear for other types of pears produced domestically.

Without information on the domestic and foreign quantities supplied and the substitutability of Chinese sand pear for other pear varieties, we are unable to evaluate potential effects of the rule for U.S. producers.  We welcome information that would allow a more complete understanding of possible effects of the proposed rule for small entities. 

TK: Not much knowledge at the USDA about the market  for Chinese sand pears in the U.S., and it sounds like they are all ears. Danya has done her part, at least.

This is  a foreshadow of a much bigger issue, when the USDA someday (how long, I wonder?) issues a proposed rule to allow Chinese fresh apples into the U.S.

Look for plenty of scrutiny from Danya and others on Chinese sand pears, but that won't come close to the intensity that will come with a regulation that would seek to allow the world's biggest apple producer into the U.S. market.

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