SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — For the first time, all varieties of apples from the United States will go on sale in China, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.
A deal was reached last week between officials for the United States and Chinese governments to grant access to all U.S. apple varieties, instead of just Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.
The Washington Apple Commission — which represents growers of the nation's largest crop and most apple exports — said China stopped buying U.S. apples in 2012 because of concerns over a fungus.
Access for Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples was regained last October.
An agreement reached last week in San Francisco will for the first time open the door to all varieties in coming weeks, the Agriculture Department said. The deal culminates 20 years of efforts to send more varieties of apples to China.
The deal has the potential to increase U.S. fresh apple exports by about 10 percent in the next two years, the Agriculture Department said.
"The new access for American exports we're announcing today is the culmination of decades of hard work by USDA staff," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "These efforts will result in high quality, fresh U.S. apple varieties available for consumers in China and a significant boost in sales for American apple producers."
China has allowed the direct shipment of Red Delicious and Golden Delicious varieties since 1994, but Washington grows many different types of apples now, the Washington Apple Commission said.
"Red and Golden Delicious now account for less than 40 percent of our overall volume, and gaining access for the rest of our varieties allows us to provide Chinese consumers with more high quality choices from Washington," said Todd Fryhover, president of the commission, which is based in Wenatchee, Washington.
The China news is welcome during a record crop year that has been hampered by the West Coast port slowdown, a Russian ban on the import of agricultural products from the U.S., and the world-wide effects of the strengthening dollar, said Barbara Walkenhauer, chair of the Washington Apple Commission board.