U.S. to expand apple exports to China

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that new trade export routes with China for apples have opened up.

According to a USDA news release, it is estimated that exports could total $100 million per year – a 10 percent increase from the tallied exports of $1 billion in 2013.

The announcement is good news for Virginia, as Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Agricultural and Forestry Todd Haymore have been actively looking to expand agricultural exports.

“It’s a probably a bit early to say the impact on Virginia, but … anytime that barriers to entry in a market are removed, it’s a good thing,” Haymore said. “Hopefully, at some point, our apple producers will be able to take advantage of this.”

In the immediate term, he said, “the West Coast, in particular Washington State, will benefit from this. They already have a history of exporting to China.”

Haymore said that no discussions between Virginia and China have taken place yet. “This is something we had been hearing was going on.”

As Virginia seeks to expand agricultural trade, Haymore said that merely having the ability to talk apple exports with China is a big first step.

“Just being able to say, ‘hey, trade is resumed, we can now sell Virginia apples to China,’ gives us … the ability to talk, the ability to promote,” Haymore said, adding, “That’s the first step in making a sale occur.”

For the future, Haymore said, “We will make sure that our trade representatives in Shanghai and Hong Kong are aware of this and … that they let the Chinese know we have some of the best apples in America.”

Haymore said Virginia has already been exporting products to China, including lumber, tobacco, grains, wine and even seafood.

“Last year, we did right at $600 million in agricultural and forestry exports from Virginia to China,” Haymore said.

He said China represents Virginia’s largest agricultural exports customer, with exports growing by more than 200 percent in the last couple of years.

“We have made a very, very strong push in McDonnell and McAuliffe administrations to grow the relationship,” Haymore said.

Expanded trades between China and Virginia would come on the heels of increased trade with India, which was announced last December.

Back in December, Haymore said he would like the final India export figures to “reach double-digits” for 2014 in terms of millions of dollars.

“Those final figures will be wrapped up the last week of February or the first week of March and we are on target to release them shortly after that,” Haymore said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com