Okanagan cherries enter the Japanese market

The 40 year long goal of the B.C. Cherry Association was accomplished with a brown sugar test

Coveted Okanagan cherries will soon be sold in Japanese stores, accomplishing an almost 40-year goal of the B.C. Cherry Association.

A new way of testing to see if pests, larvae or little worms are being shipped along with the cherries was the key to procuring the trade deal with the Japanese market.

The president of the B.C. Cherry Association, Sukhpaul Bal, said Canadian Food Inspection Agency specialists will conduct controlled brown sugar tests where several samples are crushed and put into a bucket with brown sugar and water. After 10 minutes if there are worms or larva in the cherries they will float to the surface.

“It’s a rigorous process to make sure the fruit is safe, the Japanese inspector came in early August and approved of it,” Bal said.

The short cherry season has raised demand in a global market according to Bal, and in Asia, the red fruit has become highly sought after.

“With all the uncertainty in our relationship with the U.S. right now, (we’re) looking at more options and different markets, and to Asia where our cherries are very sought after, it’s a good situation for our growers to be in,” Bal said. “A lot of people are looking for our product and wanting it.”

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay, along with MP for Kelowna-Lake Country Stephen Fuhr, announced last week the federal government has secured market access for B.C. fresh cherry to Japan, according to a government news release. In 2017, Japan imported more than $62.7 million of fresh cherries from around the world.

Related: B.C. cherries to be sold in Japan

Building on Canada’s efforts to deepen its trade relationships and commitment to creating new export opportunities, this market access marks a key deliverable from the minister’s recent trade mission to Japan in March 2018. This is one of many opportunities that will help Canada to reach the target of $75 billion in annual agri-food exports by 2025, the release said.

Once the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership enters into force, Canadian agriculture and agri-food exports will benefit from preferential access to key Asian markets, including Japan. Through the CPTPP, Japan’s tariffs of 8.5 per cent on fresh cherries will be eliminated over 5 years from entry into force, the release said.

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