Reverse trade mission yields fruit for eastern U.S. apple industry

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Reverse trade mission yields fruit for eastern U.S. apple industry

The U.S. Apple Export Council (USAEC) recently organized a reverse trade mission to foster trade with India and Central America, emphasizing the strength of volume and quality in 2013 in the wake of some tough crop years. At, we caught up with the council's executive director Scott Lynch, who says the Indian market was "in some ways untapped" and eager to receive more apples from the U.S.

Lynch says the recent visit from Oct. 13-17 attracted enthusiasm from Indian buyers with a message of "send as many apples as you can" to their market which is nowhere near saturation point. Reverse Trade Mission USAEC - small

"I can tell you that when our Indian delegation walked through our orchards and packing houses, they saw Red Delicious apples that worked in their market," Lynch says.

"They would walk up to us and say, 'this is what we need, do you guys have a lot of this?' Our packers were saying that yes, that the profile of Red Delicious apples this year - especially in New York and Pennsylvania but also in Michigan and Virginia - was very strong, in large or small sizes, and with the color contrast they were looking for.

"When you have more apples, you have more varieties and more of each variety. In other years when we had a smaller crop, there might not be as many apples that fit every market but this year it’s very different."

When asked about competition with Washington apples, Lynch highlights there is room for everyone in India.

"The Indian market is such a significant market for all U.S. apple producers that it’s an open enough door that we can walk through together.

"Obviously, the eastern United States crop has differences to the western United States crop. We have different varieties and different flavor profiles within the same varieties.

Orders have been placed from Indian importers within a matter of weeks since the visit with shipments already taking off this week for the 30-days voyage. These advances come off the back of two low crop years and a need for the industry to emphasize it is back on the scene.

"One of the reasons why this reverse trade mission this year was so important was that for the last two crop years, due to weather issues we’ve had a smaller crop than the norm, the need for exports decreases because there just weren’t that many apples out there.

"So the trade mission was important for a couple of reasons. One was to establish new relationships but the other was to bring these people over who we may not have shipped to in a couple years and remind them of the great crop from the states of the USAEC.

"It was also to remind people that we're here and we actually have a large crop this year – especially Michigan and New York which have close to record crops this year with very high quality and variety."

The mission involved seven Indian importers - Dhivyaa Impex & Mahalakshmi Traders, G T Fruitech Pvt. Ltd, Gajumal Mulchand Fruits Pvt. Ltd, Mudra Exports, National Fruit Agency (NFA), SRC Overseas and TT Enterprises - as well as Costa Rica's Fruta Internacional S.A. and Frutas del Mundo S.A., Honduras-based Fruteria Carana y Mas, and California-based Sun Fresh International which is focused on Latin American distribution.

Lynch emphasizes that the Central American visitors sold fruit not just in their home countries but across the region; one of the council's top export markets.

"That was more of a continuation to build those relationships we already had, while India is a market that we have not fully penetrated where there are a lot of opportunities.

"We started in Michigan, then went to New York, to Pennsylvania and Virginia and in each state we visited at least one orchard and at least one packinghouse.

"In addition to the visits to facilities, each of the states hosted events as either a dinner or a lunch."

The Michigan event involved the participation of Senator Debbie Stabenow, who currently chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"It was also an opportunity to show the value of what we do to Senator Stabenow; to bring in a high level delegation, all of whom were ready and willing and prepared to buy produce."

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