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New rule cherry on the cake for US

CHERRY growers in three states on the west coast of the United States will be able to ship sweet cherries to Japan more cheaply because of a change in the country's pest control requirements for fruit imports.

Fruit exporters in Washington, Oregon and California have been in negotiations with Japan for years to allow cherry imports without requiring the fruit to be fumigated for codling moth. Growers in the US have argued the pest is not a problem for cherries.

Japan have now agreed to allow cherries from orchards that use traps to control the pest, rather than fumigate for it. Fumigation tends to shorten shelf life, so growers have typically shipped them by air.

Under the new rules, growers should be able to export more cherries in the future by ship, which is less expensive.

"It's a big deal, not so much because of the volume, but because of the fruit quality," said Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, a trade group that represents apple and cherry packers and shippers. "Fumigation takes a toll on the fruit quality, and it does not have as good a shelf life."

The traps use pheromones to attract the moths then catch them with a sticky material.

Important market

Growers in Washington and Oregon can start taking advantage of the rule change this year because they began placing the traps in orchards in May, Archer said. The states are the No. 1 and 3 sweet cherry-producing states, respectively.

"Japan has been an important market for Washington cherries, and thanks to this new protocol, that trading relationship will continue to be profitable in the years to come," Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said.

Japan's rule change was developed too late in the harvest season for growers in California, the No. 2 sweet cherry-producing state, to take advantage of it this year.

Last year proved to be disappointing for Washington cherry growers after a spring frost reduced the crop.

Canada is the largest market for cherries from the northwest region, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Taiwan, Hong Kong and the UK follow.

The next top markets are Japan, South Korea and Australia - the only countries that have required fumigation.


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