China is our second-largest buyer behind Canada. It accounts for more than a quarter of our cherry exports. South Korea and Taiwan combined import another 25 percent.
A recent Capital Press report found our state’s cherry farmers lost $106 million last year because of China’s retaliatory duties.
B.J. Thurlby of the Northwest Cherry Growers told the Capital Press: “Trade data indicates that Northwest growers retailed 1.7 million, 20-pound boxes of cherries to China last year, a figure which reflected a drop of nearly 50 percent from 2017 when 3 million boxes were sold.”
Meanwhile, Turkey, the world’s largest cherry producer, is expanding its shipments into China. Turkey’s biggest traditional markets have been Russia and Germany. Chile, the world’s sixth-largest grower with a quarter of U.S. production, is increasing its deliveries to China as well. Neither country is subject to Chinese tariffs.
Thousands of Washington farmers who grow apples, cherries, pears and wheat now find themselves on the front lines of a battle between the two largest economies in the world, The Seattle Times reporter Derek Hall wrote in July.
Wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest have also been smacked by the trade dispute. China bought 300,000 metric tons of soft wheat from the Pacific Northwest in 2017, worth about $60 million, and as soon as the threat of tariffs surfaced, Chinese customers stopped buying.
Our state’s agriculture sector exports about 30 percent of its products. Other top Washington fruit crops targeted by China include apples and pears. In 2017 China bought about $50 million worth of apples and $1.5 million in pears.
New export markets for Washington agriculture products take time to develop, so growers fight hard to keep existing customers. For example, the Northwest Cherry Growers Commission is planning to invest over a half-million dollars into promoting buyer incentives in China this spring.
Northwest growers also are eyeing India as a potential market, but exporters remain apprehensive because India’s importers want shipments of cherries sent by boat rather than flown, which doesn’t work well with fumigation requirements, the Capital Press reports.
According to U.S. News, nearly a quarter of our state’s exports (more than $18 billion) went to China last year, making Washington by far and away America’s biggest exporter to the Chinese.
Washington’s $49 billion food and agriculture industry employs 140,000 people. Thirteen percent of the state’s economy comes from agriculture. Failure to end this trade war will impact all Washingtonians.