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N.Y. apples to India could be first step to bigger export market

by Christina DiMartino | April 12, 2010
In its first year of marketing to India, New York apple growers are expecting to ship 50,000 cartons of apples to that nation this year. And more markets are expected to open to Empire State growers, providing opportunities for future growth.

Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association in Fishers, NY, told The Produce News, "We have also opened export programs to Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Africa, Thailand and Hong Kong this year. Movement into some of these countries is minimal, but it has opened doors and given us opportunities for future growth."

Mr. Allen said that increasing apple exports to new markets is a top priority in New York, and as new varieties and new plantings continue to increase in production, expanding foreign markets will result in better management of domestic supplies for the state.

He explained that the U.S. Apple Export Council was formed by apple producers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, California and New England specifically to enhance export opportunities. Washington has its own export council.

"The USAEC receives federal funding to help carry out its efforts," said Mr. Allen. "Through the council, we were able to apply for and receive emerging market funds from the Foreign Agriculture Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is available through the farm bill under the Market Access Program. Emerging market funds are used to help open new markets and for market expansion. We had never done business in India or these other countries, but we were able to use the funds to open doors and develop markets in them."

Mr. Allen said that the council hired a representative in India and another to cover Thailand and Hong Kong. The agents represent the council in performing market intelligence and research that helps identify its customers. "In early September 2009, we sponsored a reverse trade mission with India and Malaysia," said Mr. Allen. "We brought buyers here to tour the orchards and packing facilities in New York and in Michigan. The USAEC also exhibited at the Asia Fruit Logistica expo in Hong Kong in September 2009. Representatives from New York, Michigan and California participated at the show."

Mr. Allen added that marketers who participated in the trade mission to New York and Michigan said they were highly impressed with the orchards, facilities and product. Consumers there are fond of red, sweet apples like the Red Delicious and Gala varieties.

Mr. Allen added that even though India produces apples, New York's apples have competed successfully.

"We were initially told by Indian marketers that they thought our apples would perform well during the window when their crop is out of the market -- December and January -- until the Southern Hemisphere's crop comes on in the spring," he said. "As it turned out, we started shipping earlier in the fall at the same time that India's apples were at market, and our apples performed well, which adds to our optimism."

Although volume numbers are smaller in other countries, Mr. Allen said that small volumes open new doors as well as large volumes do.

"Singapore and Thailand shipments are approaching 20,000 cartons, Africa was minimal and Saudi Arabia was around 15 to 16 loads," he said. "Our funding is already in place for next year, however, and we're looking forward to increasing the export numbers in all of these countries.

"A lot of things come into play with exports," Mr. Allen continued. "The strength of the U.S. dollar, the world crop and our crop are all factors that determine what we can export and to where. But we're pleased that we've made a good first impression with the trade. Our customers in these countries actually wanted more than we could supply."