WORLD TRADE SITUATION AND POLICY UPDATES
China opens doors to California grapes from all producing regions
On May 8, 1998, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service signed an agreement with the Government of China permitting the entry of grapes grown in Riverside County, California, effectively opening the market to all producing regions of the state. This agreement expanded the original phytosanitary agreement signed in Beijing on May 12, 1997 which granted official access for California table grapes to enter China's market, beginning with crop year 1997. The original agreement provided access only for grapes produced in Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties. Kings County was added shortly thereafter.
The May 8 agreement provides the California table grape industry with a major new marketing opportunity, as some of the first grapes of the season come from Riverside County. However, China's current high duty -- 40 percent, plus 13 percent VAT -- is expected to constrain sales significantly. The ongoing WTO accession negotiations offer an excellent opportunity to address this issue for grapes, along with similar concerns for a wide range of other agricultural products.
Korea enacts new pesticide tolerance levels for oranges
According to the U.S. Agricultural Minister-Counselor office in Seoul, Korea's government, following several months of internal delay, formally approved increased residue tolerance levels for a number of pesticides used commonly on fresh oranges effective May 16, 1998, a very favorable development for U.S. citrus exporters. In the past, Korea had rejected several shipments of California oranges due to violative levels of pesticide residues. In all cases, Korea's established tolerance levels for the pesticides in question (i.e., carbaryl & methidathion) were well below that of Codex, of which Korea is a member. FAS had formally requested that Korea raise its tolerance levels to match those of Codex and, in January, the Korean government publicly announced its intention to do so.
The value of U.S. orange exports to Korea in CY1997 topped $20 million, up from $14 million in the preceding year. Beginning July 1, 1997, the Uruguay Round Agreement provided for out-of-quota sales to Korea for the first time, a development that, is expected to lead to a significant increase in U.S. exports in the coming years.
Yemen opens market to some fruit & vegetable imports; apple access delayed
Yemen's government has issued a decree opening its market, effective immediately, to a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, according to a report from the Agricultural Trade Officer headquartered in Riyadh. Items that can now be legally imported under the recent decree include pears, kiwifruit, strawberries, cranberries, dates, figs, avocados, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, celery, eggplant, mushrooms, sweet corn, spinach, and sweet potatoes. Yemeni government officials have further indicated that a second tranche of fresh fruit and vegetable products will be liberalized on January 1, 1999, with the market opening completely to all fruits and vegetables by January 1, 2000.
Unfortunately, the Yemeni government decided to postpone the liberalization of apple imports, a setback for longstanding FAS efforts to secure access to the market. However, it remains possible that apples may be included in the tranche of products scheduled for liberalization in January 1999. The Yemen market shows significant potential as a market for U.S. apples. Efforts to open the market to U.S. apples continue.