US (WA): No import permits mean few apples to China

China's decision not to issue any new import permits for Red and Golden Delicious apples means that it's likely that few, if any, U.S. apples will ship there this season. With the window for exports a few months away, the apple suppliers are scrambling to find ways to market their product in a region where they can't ship much quantities.

China has decided to not issue any new import permits for Red and Golden Delicious apples, so while those products can still be imported with existing permits, those permits are held by importers in China, so it's not clear if U.S. apples will be able to make their way into the country this year.

“There have been 1,235 cartons of apples from Washington that have gone into China for this season to date, and that's most likely last year's crop of fruit,” said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington State Apple Commission. He noted that, due to requirements that any apples shipped to China be held for 40 days in cold treatment, any potential shipments are still a few months away, but it looks like there will be few U.S. apples shipped to China this season.

“Technically, the market is closed,” he said. “The process to ship fruit into China requires a permit, and, as it stands today, they're not being issued. So essentially, there's no new fruit going in there. The market is closed for Washington apple growers.” That poses a problem for them, he added, because they have to promote a product in a region where, technically, it can't be sold.

“We got confirmation from the Chinese government last week that no more permits would be issued, so now we're figuring out how to best market our product in this situation,” said Fryhover. “We'll try to keep brand value in front of the consumer's eyes, but not at the retail because the product won't be there. Chinese New Year in February is usually the focus of our programs, so we have a little bit of time, but we still have to figure out what to do soon.”

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