The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that after 10 years of negotiations, U.S. cherries can now be exported to Western Australia, making cherries the first U.S. fresh fruit to gain access to that market. The market opening positions Australia as the seventh most valuable export market for U.S. cherries.

"The market opening in Western Australia is great news for American sweet cherry producers of the Northwest and even better news for American agricultural exports, which are forecast to set records this year and next thanks to the dedication of American producers," said Michael Scuse, Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. "In fact, U.S. horticultural exports are expected to surge going into 2012 thanks to the high-quality of American-grown fruits and vegetables."

U.S. cherries from California have had access to the eastern states of Australia since the late 1990s and Washington and Oregon have been permitted to export to the eastern Australian states since 2001. Since that time, negotiations have been ongoing between Biosecurity Australia and USDA to gain access for U.S. cherries to Western Australia, which maintains its own regulations. A final push by importers in Western Australia resulted in the first cherry import into that Australian State last month, and Washington State Fruit Commission/Northwest Cherry Growers used USDA Market Access Program funds to showcase the products as they arrived in Perth, in Western Australia.

The Australian market is a rapidly growing market for U.S. cherries. In 2009, a record 2,334 metric tons of cherries valued at $15.6 million were shipped to the Australian market, compared with $1.4 million in 1999 when the market first opened. Over the years, USDA and the California and Pacific Northwest cherry industries have worked together to develop the scientific research needed to support the phytosanitary negotiations between USDA and Biosecurity Australia. These efforts, along with strong industry market development, have nurtured and maintained exports to this market.

U.S. cherries are sold in Australia at a competitive price close to that of Australian product, as the Australian dollar has strengthened considerably in the last two years, making imports more affordable. Since U.S. cherries are counter-seasonal to the Australian crop, the products do not compete directly in the marketplace.

USDA recently forecast fiscal year 2011 and 2012 exports will reach a record $137 billion, $22 billion higher than the previous record set in 2008 and $28 billion above 2010. Strong agricultural exports contribute to the positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.