Washington sweet cherries could be on their way to China this summer.
China and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reached the agreement last week when Chinese negotiators decided to drop a requirement that Washington cherries be fumigated prior to shipment, said Kraig Naasz, a spokesman for the Northwest Horticultural Council.
Instead, Chinese inspectors will certify packing houses before shipments begin, Naasz said Friday. They will be inspecting orchards and packing houses next week.
China is a highly desirable market for the state’s cherries, said Ken Severn, manager of the Washington Fruit Commission.
“We are encouraged to be getting in there. Cherries is one of the few items they are letting in,” Severn said.
“It does open up a lot of opportunities for us, and whether they immediately develop or develop in the future, the industry sees it as an enormous chance to grow markets.”
Washington is the nation’s largest producer of sweet cherries. Production for fresh sale has exceeded 42,000 tons over the last five years.
A growing number of American companies and commodity groups are increasingly interested in China, with a population of 1.2 billion, as the country seeks to expand trade.
Washington apples were imported by China for the first time last year, and the country agreed this week to add apples from Idaho and Oregon to the list.