RICHMOND—Why do Virginia apple growers care how many West Coast apples are shipped to China? China is a growing world market, and a domestic over-supply of Washington state apples could hurt Virginia apple prices, according to Spencer Neale, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation vice president of commodity marketing. “If Washington state has a glut of apples, they can always be diverted to the processing plant. So anything that boosts the overseas sales of fresh apples is better for us,” Neale said. “The majority of Virginia apples have always gone to processing for juice and sauce, but the interesting news is that more Virginia growers are planting apple varieties for the fresh fruit market. This is driven by the availability of new varieties and by consumer demand for more locally grown apples,” he added. China is the world’s largest apple consumer, and the majority of its crop is grown for processing as well. But Chinese consumers are buying more fresh-market apples every year, and a new trade deal would open that market to West Coast growers. The deal was finalized between the U.S. and China in January. The trade-off is that Chinese apple producers must be allowed to sell in the U.S. Chinese apple imports have been blocked in the past to protect U.S. orchards from the Oriental fruit fly. The deal would allow imports to resume provided the Chinese apples are bagged and properly decontaminated. The U.S. apple crop is a $3 billion industry, and Virginia’s apple crop is worth about $54 million annually. Currently, only U.S.-grown Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples are exported to China, which for years blocked all U.S. apple imports. Neale said those varieties represent about 40 percent of U.S. production, with Honeycrisp, Pink Ladies and Brown Russets among the new players. Economists expect U.S. apple exports to increase by as much as 10 percent. Almost all apple exports and imports between the U.S. and China will happen on the West Coast, so no new sales of Virginia apples are expected, Neale said. The benefits for Virginia growers will be more subtle, especially when the West Coast has a large crop. “We’re the sixth-largest apple-producing state in the country, but we’re not so big that we need to export that far away. Our ideal export markets are Mexico and countries in the Caribbean.” Media: Contact Neale at 804-290-1156 or Norm Hyde , VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.