- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What’s more American than baseball, hot dogs — and Chinese apple pie?

While Mom’s homemade apple pie will grace millions of Thanksgiving dessert trays Thursday, it might not be so homemade for much longer, if China has anything to say about it.

China is the OPEC of apples, producing roughly half of the world’s crop, and it is using its clout to press for expanded access to the long-restricted American market. But Beijing must first convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture that its apples are safe to eat and will not bring pesticides that could destroy crops and appetites alike.

Once that happens, U.S. growers fear, Chinese apples could flood American grocery stores and become a popular ingredient in apple pies, boasting a significant price advantage over domestically grown Granny Smiths, Winesaps and Fujis.

But many Americans are dismayed that a tradition as popular as apple pie could be outsourced to China.

Peggy Rayner, who lives in northern Maine, said she and her husband enjoy a good homemade apple pie every now and then.

“But if I couldn’t find apples that were grown in the USA, I would not be making apple pie at all,” Mrs. Rayner said. “I want to support our country, and I am opposed to everything that is coming in from China. I would much rather buy homegrown apples. I think buying local is very important for our economy.”

Favoring ‘buying local’

This sentiment of “buying local” is growing popular across the country.

The proprietors of Dangerously Delicious Pies say apple pie is one of the shop’s most popular pies and the store’s Baltimore location sells about 200 slices a week. But don’t expect to find any Chinese apples in their pies.

“We use all local produce from local farms in our pies,” said Mary Wortman, owner of the Baltimore shop. “That’s one of the things that Dangerously Delicious Pies does — we pride ourselves on using local produce to help out the community.”

But one concern for many Americans is that they don’t always know where their food comes from. It doesn’t stop with apples. China is also the world’s leading producer of potatoes and green beans — meaning other popular Thanksgiving dishes like mashed potatoes and green bean casserole could soon also be imported from across the Pacific.

Many analysts believe it is only a matter of time before China gains a foothold in the American apple market. The bright side is such a move would almost certainly open the door to American apple exports in China, as well. Facing a bumper harvest this year, Pacific Northwest growers have been eyeing China’s 1 billion-plus consumer market with longing. But at what cost?

“Access to the U.S. market has been a top priority for China,” said Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs at the U.S. Apple Association, an industry trade group.

China produces nearly 10 times as many apples as American farmers, so it would have much more to gain from opening the U.S. market, where 80 percent of the country’s apples come from Washington state.

Story Continues →