One year pilot project will involve Chinese inspectors coming to B.C. before cherries are shipped overseas
It has taken seven years of hard work and negotiations, but the B.C. Cherry Association has signed a new deal with the Chinese government that could quickly lead to China being the largest trade partner for cherry growers in this province.
“It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work, but we’re very pleased with this deal,” said Christine Dendy, chair of the B.C. Cherry Association, which signed the deal with the Chinese government last week.
“This will give us access to a very important trading partner on the global market.”
The deal involves a “one year pilot project” where inspectors from China will visit British Columbia, starting in July, to conduct regular inspections of cherries and ensure there are no insects or pests being transported to the world’s most populous country, said Dendy.
At the end of the one-year trial period, the Chinese government, B.C. Cherry Association and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are prepared to enter into a long-term agreement that will allow for hundreds of thousands of pounds of cherries to be shipped to China annually, she said.
“China would automatically become our No. 1 customer,” said Dendy. “It’s obviously a very exciting time for our members because the potential to expand into a major market like China provides great opportunity.”
Management from the CFIA were responsible for heading negotiations with the Chinese government over the past seven years and the organization deserves most of the credit for securing this pilot project over the next year, she said.
The CFIA will continue to work closely with Chinese government officials during the pilot project to ensure everything is running smoothly and that no significant problems arise, she said.
The deal includes how B.C. cherries can be transported to China, be it by ship or air, and which provinces in China will receive the cherries, said Dendy.
The hope is all significant problems in relation to transportation, insect and pest control and quality assurance will be ironed out during the pilot project period, she said.
There are 60 to 70 major growers across the province who belong to her association as well as a long list of members who belong to the B.C Tree Fruit Co-operative and they are all very excited about this deal with China, said Dendy.
The vast majority of major cherry producers in the province operate out of the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys and this new deal should ensure their farms are successful for many years to come, she said.
The B.C. Cherry Association already has trade agreements with more than 20 countries around the world, but securing a deal with China is exciting news considering the huge population base and fact Chinese citizens are amongst the largest consumers of cherries per capita anywhere in the world, she said.
This deal should also ensure that B.C. Cherry Association and CFIA will pursue other markets in Asia in the coming years, she said.
“It took seven years to close this deal with China, so we’re not expecting anything to happen overnight but we will be working with other countries to try and secure similar partnership agreements,” she said.
By Keith Lacey
Special to the Chronicle