Cherry bumper crop needed in face of tar­iff

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Business - By WIL­LIAM HENNELLY in New York williamhen­nelly@ chi­nadai­

While the prospect of a 15 per­cent tar­iff on US fruit ex­ports to China is daunt­ing to grow­ers, there’s another fac­tor that could play a role in how the mar­ket is af­fected, and it is sim­ply the qual­ity of the crop, for ex­am­ple, cher­ries.

“Like any ag prod­uct, it’s in the hands of Mother Na­ture,” Keith Hu, di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing at North­west Cherry Grow­ers in Yakima, Wash­ing­ton, told China Daily on Thurs­day.

“I spoke to a lot of the im­porters and re­tail­ers over there in China … it’s pretty unan­i­mous that if … the qual­ity is good, the im­pact of the 15 per­cent tar­iff will be min­i­mal.”

But Hu said that if this year’s cher­ries are sub­par, the tar­iff could im­pact sales “greatly”.

In re­sponse to US tar­iffs on im­ported steel and alu­minum, China re­sponded on March 23 with its own list of Amer­i­can prod­ucts it would tax.

China’s ac­tion came on the same day that US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced that up to $60 bil­lion worth of Chi­nese im­ports could face tar­iffs.

China’s list con­tains 128 prod­ucts across seven cat­e­gories, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Com­merce. The list also in­cludes two dif­fer­ent tar­iff lev­els — 15 per­cent and 25 per­cent.

Fac­ing the 15 per­cent levy are fresh fruits, dried fruits and nut prod­ucts, wines, mod­i­fied ethanol, Amer­i­can gin­seng and seam­less steel pipes.

Prod­ucts ex­posed to a po­ten­tial 25 per­cent levy tax are pork and pork prod­ucts and re­cy­cled alu­minum.

Cher­ries are a de­sir­able prod­uct in China.

“The cherry is one of those per­ish­able goods that is very at­trac­tive to the Asian con­sumer,” Hu told China Daily in Jan­uary 2015. “Tastes good, looks great. It’s very ap­peal­ing.”

Cher­ries are rich in an­tiox­i­dants and also help re­duce in­flam­ma­tion, among other health ben­e­fits.

“Red means good luck and pros­per­ity,”Hu said. “It’s good for you to eat dark greens and dark red prod­ucts.”

The cherry grow­ers have the ben­e­fit of the cal­en­dar, should the US and China sort out the trade dis­pute. Peak cherry har­vest sea­son is from early June to late Au­gust.

For China, July is the key month for sales, said Hu, who re­turned from China on March 24.

mil­lion boxes

US cher­ries taken in by China in 2017 Value of US cherry ex­ports

In 2017, the US Pa­cific North­west states of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon pro­duced 26,432,194 boxes of cher­ries, at 20 pounds apiece, ac­cord­ing to the North­west Hor­ti­cul­tural Coun­cil in Yakima, Wash­ing­ton.

A lit­tle more than 35 per­cent of that yield was ex­ported, with an over­all value close to $400 mil­lion.

China took in 2,976,841 of those cherry boxes in 2017.

While sales of cher­ries are steadily in­creas­ing on Chi­nese e-com­merce plat­forms such as Alibaba and JD, Hu said the key for the in­dus­try’s mar­ket in China re­mains whole­salers and of­fline re­tail­ers.

Wash­ing­ton state’s 1,400 cherry grow­ers de­pend on the Chi­nese mar­ket, CNN Money re­ported. The coun­try counts on US cher­ries be­cause China’s abil­ity to grow them is not as ad­vanced as its pro­duc­tion of ap­ples, another key North­west prod­uct that faces the tar­iff.

“We can’t just eas­ily switch mar­kets from China,”Mark Pow­ers, pres­i­dent of the hor­ti­cul­tural group, told CNN. “There is no other mar­ket that can take that kind of vol­ume.”


Rainier cher­ries, a key crop grown in the state of Wash­ing­ton.

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