Apples and cherries are at stake in China trade fight

Washington apples and cherries are caught in the trade fight between the United States and China.Beijing threa...

Posted: Mar 27, 2018 10:59 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2018 10:59 PM

Washington apples and cherries are caught in the trade fight between the United States and China.

Beijing threatened last week to impose a 15% tariff on American fruit to retaliate against President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Chinese trade penalty would especially punish Washington State, which ships more apples and cherries to China than any other part of the country.

"We're free traders," said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, a nonprofit group that promotes the industry. "Any disruption to that has a negative economic impact to our growers."

Gala, Red Delicious and Granny Smith make up 90% of the apples that Washington growers ship to China. The other 10% are more exotic varieties, including new types that the growers are testing.

"We get high dollar values for our products," Fryhover said.

Related: China may target American cherries, pistachios and sparkling wine

Last year, Washington growers sent nearly 1.8 million 40-pound boxes of apples to mainland China and another million to Hong Kong, according to data from the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. The shipments raked in $45 million to $50 million, and supported 1,260 jobs in the state.

China is an enticing market for American producers, explained Desmond O'Rourke, a retired professor of agricultural economics at Washington State University and an expert on the global fruit market. China has 1.4 billion people and a growing middle class able to spend on imported American food.

"The growth potential is what attracts everybody to China," he said.

Washington growers are vulnerable to protectionist policies because a third of apples grown in the state are sold overseas. Chinese tariffs on apples would raise costs for Washington suppliers - and could force them to hike prices for Chinese consumers to protect their profit margins.

Related: What happens when the world's two biggest economies turn on each other

That could make their apples less competitive for Chinese retail buyers and consumers than apples shipped there from Chile, France, New Zealand and Australia. China is also the world's largest apple producer, and its crop could become more appealing overnight.

For Americans, that means apple prices could fall. Washington growers may decide to sell more apples in the United States instead of shipping them to China, O'Rourke predicted.

O'Rourke said the harvest this September and October and competition from rivals will determine how much the tariffs will sting for Washington's growers.

Jim Bair, president of the US Apple Association, a national trade group, said last week that Chinese tariffs were the "latest chapter in a long and sad story where US apple growers get hurt in a fight we didn't start and in which we have no interest."

In 2015, the US Department of Agriculture reached an agreement with Chinese officials to fully open China to American producers after years of barriers on different apple varieties. Before 2015, growers could only export Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples to China.

Then-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the time that the agreement would "result in high quality, fresh US apple varieties available for consumers in China and a significant boost in sales for American apple producers."

But O'Rourke said the Chinese appetite for Washington apples has failed to live up to producers' high expectations. China is a huge market, but only 5% of Washington apples go there. Mexico and Canada are the biggest importers.

Despite possible tariffs and sluggish growth, O'Rourke expects growers to continue selling in China. Restrictions "wouldn't be a death blow," he said.

The state's cherry growers may face a greater threat from higher taxes in China.

China is the largest importer of Washington's Bing and Rainier cherries. The country brought in nearly 3 million 20-pound boxes last year, and another 300,000 boxes were shipped to Hong Kong.

Those cherries sold for an estimated $127 million, according to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

Cherries are a profitable business for both Washington growers and wholesale retailers in China. The online market for them is also growing.

"There's a lot of excitement," said Mark Powers, president of Northwest Horticultural Council, a growers' trade group in Yakima, Washington. "They love our cherries."

Powers said it was difficult to predict the impact of the tariffs, but "either the price to the consumer goes up or the return to the producer goes down." He hopes the United States and China would reach a solution before peak season begins in June.

While Washington's apple producers can redirect sales from China to other major markets, the state's 1,400 cherry growers depend on the Chinese market. And the country relies on American cherries because China's growing capacity is less developed than its apple industry.

"We can't just easily switch markets from China," Powers said. "There is no other market that can take that kind of volume."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57162

Reported Deaths: 1660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18197820
Ramsey7047261
Dakota4049103
Anoka3410113
Stearns284220
Washington193843
Nobles17496
Olmsted163523
Scott141017
Mower10842
Rice10028
Blue Earth8595
Wright8205
Carver7922
Clay75240
Kandiyohi6771
Sherburne6577
St. Louis45319
Todd4202
Lyon4163
Freeborn3551
Steele3331
Nicollet32013
Benton3103
Watonwan2990
Winona24916
Crow Wing21313
Martin2045
Le Sueur2021
Beltrami2000
Chisago1821
Otter Tail1793
Goodhue1778
Cottonwood1730
Becker1471
Pipestone1439
McLeod1400
Unassigned14040
Polk1353
Itasca13412
Douglas1320
Waseca1300
Pine1280
Carlton1260
Dodge1230
Murray1221
Isanti1100
Chippewa991
Brown852
Faribault840
Meeker832
Morrison821
Wabasha820
Sibley802
Rock750
Koochiching743
Pennington731
Jackson700
Mille Lacs683
Cass622
Fillmore610
Renville605
Lincoln540
Swift521
Grant511
Yellow Medicine490
Roseau460
Pope450
Houston390
Norman370
Hubbard320
Redwood320
Marshall290
Kanabec281
Wilkin283
Aitkin270
Mahnomen241
Wadena230
Big Stone220
Red Lake200
Lake180
Stevens160
Clearwater150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson30
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 46100

Reported Deaths: 887
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk9781203
Woodbury365651
Black Hawk302262
Linn214587
Johnson195915
Dallas179635
Buena Vista178612
Scott161512
Dubuque154929
Marshall139424
Pottawattamie122723
Story111714
Wapello85032
Muscatine83048
Webster7366
Crawford7213
Sioux6022
Cerro Gordo57917
Tama53929
Warren5341
Jasper45825
Wright4441
Plymouth4438
Louisa37814
Dickinson3754
Clinton3213
Washington28810
Hamilton2411
Boone2312
Franklin2256
Bremer1927
Clarke1883
Carroll1821
Emmet1812
Clay1711
Shelby1691
Hardin1660
Marion1550
Allamakee1504
Poweshiek1508
Benton1451
Jackson1411
Des Moines1392
Mahaska13617
Floyd1312
Guthrie1285
Jones1242
Cedar1201
Hancock1172
Butler1152
Buchanan1141
Henry1143
Pocahontas1141
Lyon1060
Madison1052
Clayton993
Cherokee981
Harrison980
Lee973
Taylor930
Humboldt921
Delaware911
Iowa901
Monona900
Winneshiek861
Mills830
Calhoun822
Fayette810
Sac810
Palo Alto800
Kossuth780
Osceola780
Jefferson770
Winnebago770
Mitchell760
Page760
Grundy741
Union721
Monroe677
Worth610
Chickasaw510
Davis501
Lucas504
Howard490
Cass481
Montgomery453
Appanoose433
Greene380
Fremont350
Van Buren331
Keokuk311
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur220
Adair210
Ringgold211
Wayne181
Adams160
Unassigned00
Rochester
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 66°
Mason City
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Albert Lea
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 68°
Austin
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Shower and storms chances for tonight into Thursday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

MN #2 in US for Health Care

Image

Olmsted Health and Human Services healthy budget

Image

Case numbers falling in Iowa

Image

One Book, One Minnesota

Image

Relay For Life Freeborn County

Image

School Supply Donations Needed

Image

Adjusting To A New Way Of Learning

Image

08-05-2020 bRI

Image

Spark Opens To The Public

Image

City Park Complaints Increase

Community Events