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China is running well behind on its promised purchases of U.S. goods and services in the first quarter of 2020, raising trade tensions between the two countries.

The news, plus continuing friction over the status of Hong Kong and China’s role in the spread of the coronavirus, comes at a time when some U.S. fruit exports are showing gains in the China market and fresh fruit industry leaders are expressing more optimism about trade growth.

According to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence, China was $20 billion short of its promised purchases of U.S. goods and services in the first quarter.

China’s leaders in January agreed to more than double its imports of U.S. goods, promising to buy extra $200 billion-plus compared to 2017 levels throughout 2020 and 2021.

The analysis by S & P Global showed that China would need to buy nearly $12 billion in U.S. imports every month; its imports in March were just more than $5 billion.

Export rebound?

U.S. Department of Agriculture trade statistics show that U.S. orange and tangerine exports to China in March totaled $8.5 million, up from $5.5 million a year ago.

U.S. apple exports to China in March totaled $752,000, less than half the amount in March 2019. 

Northwest U.S. fruit exporters are currently enjoying a positive trade relationship with China, said Mark Powers, president of the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council.

With China allowing importers to apply for tariff rate exclusions on U.S. agricultural commodities, Powers said U.S. fruit exporters were able to ship to China with a 25% tariff in May, compared with 60% at the same time a year ago.

“We, as an industry, are still selling apples to China and are looking forward to a positive and productive cherry season,” Powers said. “China is so important to our industry; we have an important customer base there.”
B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherries, said early reports show good demand from China for California cherries, which is a good sign for just-beginning Northwest cherry exports.

“We’ve been watching California export numbers, and they’ve been normal to up a little bit, at least in the key markets, which for us will be Korea, Taiwan, China, and Vietnam,” Thurlby said.

Other gains

The USDA also recently said that China has opened its market to U.S. blueberries grown in 11 states and California avocados.

The U.S Department of Agriculture reported that both counties have signed protocols to allow the U.S. to export blueberries and California hass avocados into China. U.S. blueberry exports to China could total $62 million annually, according to the release.

For California hass avocado producers, the USDA said access to the Chinese market will be worth an estimated $10 million per year.


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