What Would Make Washington Cherry Season Even Better? The TPP

by Amrietha Nellan

One reason I love summertime is that it’s cherry season. Though on the other side of the country, I still have easy access to this favorite fruit of mine, because the nation’s top cherry producing state, Washington, is also a proud trading state. Washington cherries come from mostly family-owned farms, and these farmers not only send their cherries around the country, they are also the top cherry exporters bringing in about $1 billion in export revenue last year. International trade has helped grow the industry -- making a name for Washington cherries around the world -- and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will expand these gains from trade by broadening market access and streamlining export testing standards benefitting Washington cherry farmers.

Four top export destinations for Washington cherries are TPP countries: Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Australia; and southeast Asia is marked as a major expansion market. Currently, U.S. cherries face tariffs as high as 10% in partner countries. But TPP completely eliminates this tax, and history shows that removing tariffs are particularly profitable for the cherry industry. When South Korea lifted its tariff on U.S. cherries, Washington cherry exports doubled within a year and they continue  to increase. A similar impact is expected with TPP in Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, with a projected increase in consumption of Washington cherries by about $15 million each year.

Cherries are also subject to some of the most comprehensive sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) testings requirements among all exported U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables. To export to TPP countries, U.S. cherry farmers have to comply with three very different testing and safety requirements: fumigation and residue testing, fruit sample testing, and cold storage quarantining. Complying with these different requirements is burdensome, and small-scale farmers often cannot afford to meet differing requirements. Too often, they end up foregoing exporting altogether. But TPP can change this. TPP’s SPS Chapter encourages the use of science-based risk assessment and adoption of international testing standards. This will help streamline requirements and make exporting more affordable, thereby opening up market opportunity for farmers who are currently shut out.

What this all means is that Washington farmers can transfer these cost savings to consumers throughout TPP countries, driving up demand, and increasing the value of Washington cherries and farmers’ profits. Moreover, greater international market access will help offset fluctuating domestic demand for cherries and the impact of bad harvest years. This is important because cherries are very sensitive crops. A last minute weather problem could destroy an entire yield; just look at the the rain storms in 2013 that ruined around 90 million pounds of cherries. Therefore, expanding profits during bountiful years can provide a financial cushion for farmers when that bad harvest hits.

The TPP creates tangible and significant opportunities for Washington cherry farmers in major markets for their product. Cutting tariffs and improving export testing standards will allow more farmers to access the gains from trade, helping the industry and its family-owned farms thrive in the global economy. And just maybe, it will give the opportunity to more people to discover, just like I did, a new favorite fruit.