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Cherry exporters get close scrutiny

Clearance by food inspectors fromboth countries required for long-awaited sales to China.

By Judie Steeves A

dozen or soB.C. cherry packers exported cherries toChina this year, after a rigorous inspection by

Chinese inspectors on-site aswell as the CanadianFood InspectionAgency. It’s a door thatB.C. growers have been

trying to pry open for seven years, explainsB.C.CherryAssociation presidentChristineDendy,whowas in China to support negotiationswhen the agreementwithChinese authorities to receive cherries fromB.C.was announced by federal agriculture ministerGerryRitz in June. Chinese inspectors arrived July 24 and

workedwith theCFIAinspectors, going around to the farms approved for the export programthis year. “Thiswas a trial year to get the kinks

out of the system,” she explained. Things got off to a slowstart as

requirementswere clarified, but things went fairly smoothly as the seasonwent on, she noted. Therewasn’t a large volume of cherries

this year so lesswill be exported toChina than everyone had hoped, she added. Only about 25 growerswere able to

fulfill all the requirements because some packerswere precluded from participating by a requirement that the segregated storage roomensures the fruit is enclosed at all times, includingwhen the fruit is being loaded on the truck. “There are some abnormal

phytosanitarymeasures for us,” admitted Dendy, but it’s extremely important all requirements be satisfied. Themain concern of inspectors is to

ensure noWesternCherryFruitFly is permitted intoChinawhere it is not yet a concern, so testswere conducted to determine that each of the 55 blocks of packed fruitwere free of it.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013 17 LakeCountry cherry grower

DavidGeen, chair of the association’smarket access committee, explained that it’s typical to have a trial period when a country opens its market to a newproduct such as cherries, to ensure there are no adverse impacts on the local industry, such as froma newpest or disease. Growerswhowere certified this year

by theCFIAto ship cherries toChina had to followa rigid pestmonitoring program, documentedweekly and submitted to theCFIA. TheChinese have also required that

another incubation test be performed on cherries fromevery orchard fromwhich cherrieswould be exported toChina this year, at thePacificAgri-foodResearch Centre in Summerland, to ensure no WesternCherryFruitFly is present before fruit is shipped. Geen said they expect the presence of

inspectors here and the incubation test will only be required this first year, until they are comfortablewithCanadian protocols. Geen noted that the negotiations have

been verymuch a teameffort of the federal and provincial governments, the BCCAand theB.C.FruitGrowers Association promoting itwith the federal ministry. CFIAstaff are due a lot of credit for the

successful conclusion of talks, he said. “There’s been a lot of teamwork,” he

noted, including between growerswho would normally be competingwith each other formarket share. However, the stakes are high. With amarket of 1.2 billion people,

and a populace four times the population ofCanadawho are affluent,China is an importantmarket for a growing supply of B.C. cherries, notesGeen. “They’re considered a luxury item; a

healthy food.Fresh cherrieswith a nice green stemrepresent good luck.Often they’re purchased as a gift, like you would take a bottle ofwine to a dinner at a neighbour’s home,” he explained. Geen grows cherries on 300acres in

LakeCountry andVernon and packs his own fruit on-farm.He currently ships fruit all overAsia andEurope every year. He attended talks inChina earlier this

year on behalf of theBCCA. The Chinese visitorswere put up in

Kelowna by industry,with support from the province to cover the costs of their stay and hospitality.

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