Russia sanctions affect Wash. state apples, pears

Russia sanctions affect Wash. state apples, pears
YAKIMA, Wash. - The Russia ban on U.S. farm products affects some pears and apples grown in Washington just as the harvest is beginning.

Russia was the state's third-largest export market for pears, so those growers will have to move quickly to find new buyers, Mark Powers of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima told the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Growers sold $23 million worth of last season's pears and apples to Russia, Powers said in a story Friday.

Russia took about 550,000 boxes of pears worth about $11 million, said Jeff Correa of the Northwest Pear Bureau in Portland. This year's crop is expected to be about 19 million boxes, down from a record 21.6 million last year.

"Absorbing (550,000 boxes) is more doable for us than last season, when we had a record crop," Correa said.

Russia took 598,000 boxes of apples last year worth about $12 million, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.

In contrast, Mexico is the top importer of both U.S. apples and pears, taking an average of 11.5 million boxes of apples and 3.1 million boxes of pears per year.

Russia is not a large market for Washington, according to the state Department of Agriculture. It was 19th on the export list last year, importing $10 million worth of Washington food and farm products. That's less than 1 percent of the state's $8.8 billion in agriculture exports.

The top four commodities shipped to Russia were fish, apples, pears and poultry, said department spokesman, Mike Louisell.

In contrast, Washington exported $1.6 billion in agricultural products to Japan, the state's No. 1 export market.

Russia issued the ban on U.S. farm products in retaliation for sanctions imposed against Russia by the U.S. government for its involvement in Ukraine violence.