florida-agriculture.com

Agriculture Press Release

March 28, 2000

Crawford Brings Florida Citrus To Downtown Beijing Market

BEIJING Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford sold the first retail shipment of U.S. citrus in mainland China today after carrying several boxes of Florida grapefruit and oranges to a market in the bustling downtown area of the Chinese capital.

"This is an historic moment for our industry, and an incredible opportunity for our growers," Crawford said. "We are now able to sell one of our showcase agricultural products in the most populous nation on earth."

While the historic sale was taking place, three containers of Florida citrus of 40,000 pounds apiece were making their way to China by ship. Those shipment are being made by DNE World Fruit Sales, of Fort Pierce, which has buyers for the fruit in Beijing and Guangzhou.

Crawfords trip to China and the large commercial shipments that are occurring at the same time follow a decision by China one week ago to permit U.S. citrus to be sold in China. It culminated a decade-long effort by Crawfords office and the federal government to open China to U.S. citrus.

Some 20 to 30 boxes of Florida citrus initially were brought over 10 by Crawford himself on Sunday, and 10 to 20 others which arrived there on Saturday.

In an effort to capitalize on the Chinese market, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Citrus will host a trade show and exhibit in Beijing next month. It is expected to be attended by numerous major Florida citrus growers and other industry representatives. On April 12, the two agencies are hosting a dinner for major Chinese buyers, wholesalers and retailers at the Palace Hotel in Beijing.

During his Beijing visit, Crawford acknowledged that for Florida citrus sales to take off, China needs to be granted permanent normal trade relations by the U.S. Congress a move that Crawford said he not only wholeheartedly supports but will lobby Congress to see that it happens. The tariff on U.S. citrus sold in China currently is set at 40 percent, but it will be phased down to 12 percent if permanent normal trade relations are granted to China.

During his visit, Crawford has discussed with his Chinese hosts the necessity of expanding the number of Florida counties that will be permitted to sell citrus in China. It is currently limited to Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Collier, Hendry and Lee counties. Crawford was told to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture so that Florida can document and satisfy China that other Florida counties producing citrus that are not on the list have no fruit fly problems.

Crawford said his goal is to permit all citrus-producing counties in Florida to be able to ship its products to China in time for the beginning of the next growing season this fall.

Research conducted by Crawfords office and the Florida Department of Citrus indicate that China may ultimately represent Floridas largest overseas citrus market. Of Chinas 1.2 billion residents, up to 300 million may be potential customers, the research shows.

In addition to its taste and quality, another selling point for Florida citrus is its health benefits -- considerations that Chinese consumers are said to take very seriously. Studies show that citrus helps ward off some cancers and is considered an excellent heart-healthy staple.

Todays historic sale concludes years of efforts by Crawfords office and the Florida citrus industry to open China to U.S. citrus.

In 1997, Crawford led an extensive trade delegation to China and Hong Kong to open up the market, meeting numerous government and industry officials.

Last year, he opened a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services office in Beijing to work with Chinese government officials on the implementation of the trade agreement and to identify channels of distribution for Florida citrus products.

And last November, Crawford sent a trade delegation to China to explore the logistics of trade with China and develop the long-term relationships necessary for successful trade development.

"The potential for our industry is vast here in China, and we will do all that we can to capitalize on this historic opportunity," Crawford said.

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EDITORS NOTE: The Associated Press in Tallahassee has photos available. Photos of Crawfords appearance in the Beijing market can also be obtained via e-mail by calling Walt Land of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 850-487-8057, or by e-mailing him at .

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For more information:
Terence McElroy
(850) 488-3022


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