California avocados still don’t have access to China, but that might be finally changing. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is planning to review the California Avocado Commission’s request to begin exports to the overseas nation. California Avocado Commission President Tom Bellamore said it had been a long time coming: “We first approached APHIS in 2005 so it was many years ago.”
Bellamore said there was little progress in the efforts until a few years ago when a Chinese delegation visited California groves. “They expressed interest in California avocados and in seeing our product in their market,” he said. “We were very encouraged by that visit and subsequent to that we pressed APHIS to try to move the issue forward.”
Trade relations between the U.S. and China are reportedly getting better but are still not strong right now. Those political issues don’t keep the development of new markets from happening though. “Absolutely and the basis for access not being granted yet really has to do with phytosanitary concerns that China has and that’s typically the case,” Bellamore said. “There’s no reason why you can’t be working on those sorts of things while larger trade issues are discussed.”
Several other countries producing avocados already have access to China despite lower standards than the U.S. when it comes to pests and diseases. “That is puzzling to us because several of those countries have far more issues than we would here in California,” Bellamore said. “That suggests there is something else going on besides phytosanitary concerns.”
There is no timetable on when California avocados might gain access to China, but Bellamore said the sooner the better. The California Avocado Commission believes the next step is for another Chinese delegation to see how the fruit is packed and shipped. “Let’s get it done now. We would like to do it relatively early in the season because it affords one more site visit for China to tour a packing facility,” he said. “We’d like to get that done while our fruit is going across the packing line so that would mean between now and July.”
Listen to Bellamore’s full interview.