U.S. pear shipments to China have started small, but the country has the potential to become the third largest export market for the Pacific Northwest industry, according to Jeff Correa, international marketing director for Pear Bureau Northwest (PBN).
Since the first shipment of U.S. pears arrived in China in February, Northwest shippers have shipped more than 8,000 boxes (44-pound equivalent) to the country.
It wasn't as many as the 20,000 or so boxes PBN had hoped for by mid-year, but shipments started late in the season and U.S. shippers were a little more cautious than expected.
After 19 years of trying to crack the Chinese market, they didn't want to risk getting off on the wrong foot by sending possibly decayed fruit, Correa
In the coming season, Northwest shippers hope to export 120,000 to 150,000 boxes of pears to China, which would be about 2 percent of total Northwest exports.
Within a decade, the Northwest industry could be shipping 500,000 to 600,000 boxes to China, which would make it the top export market after Mexico and Canada, he
, the Northwest Horticultural Council
and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service worked together to open the Chinese market to U.S. pears since the official request was made in 1994.
Once achieved, PBN's
marketing strategy initially focused on northern China, specifically the Beijing area - where people are most familiar with Western pear varieties.
Further south, in the Shanghai and Guangzhou regions, people aren't as familiar with Western pears, and marketing activities will have to focus on consumer education.
U.S. pears are a little more delicate than Chinese pears and generally need more time to ripen, Correa
China could be the top export market for red pears (like Starkrimson and Red Anjou) within a year or two.
Red-colored pears have a special status in Chinese culture, often used as gifts and during festivals, he