A market that is ripe for picking
In Chinese culture, pears are regarded as inappropriate gifts because the Mandarin word for pear is a homophone of a word that means to leave.
Faced with such superstition what is someone who sells red pears to do, other than playing up another Chinese superstition that red brings good luck?
Two red varieties of pear, Starkrimson and red Anjou, were among varieties from the United States that were given access to the Chinese market in 2013 after sand pears from China were given access to the US.
Last season, from September 2014 to April 2015, 360,000 boxes, each weighing 10 kilograms, were exported to China, 13 percent more than in the previous season, and making China the fifth-largest export market for the US for pears.
US pear growers launched a promotion in Guangdong province in November, hoping to build on their earlier success.
“Within five years I expect China to rank among the top three export markets for pears from the US,” said Louis Ng, China representative of the Pear Bureau Northwest, which promotes fresh Westernstyle pears grown in Washington and Oregon states, which combined produce 84 percent of pears grown in the US.
China opened its market to fruit imports 16 years ago, and the top three fruits that the country imports from the US are cherries, oranges and apples, the US Department of Agriculture said.
In 2007, Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima, Washington state, shipped 285,000 9-kg boxes to China. By 2012, that number had grown to 2.06 million.
On Tmall, the online retailer owned by Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, the number of cherries sold in China rose from 160 tons in 2013 to nearly 650 tons in 2014. Add in JD.com and the number rises to 1,000 tons, said Keith Hu, director of international marketing at Northwest Cherry Growers.
Of course, the volume of fruit imported affects the prices at which it is sold, so cherries, imported in great volumes, sell for about what they sell for in the US, whereas pears, imported in lower volumes, cost a lot more than they do in the