The Chinese are interested in our cranberries.
Representatives from Wisconsin's cranberry industry are invited to discuss cranberry trade in China. That's according to Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, who just returned from a trade mission in the world's most populous country.
Wisconsin is the number one cranberry producer in the world, but China is not a huge export destination.
"Well they now can import them quite easily from Chili. But, we have … a high tariff supplied to Wisconsin cranberries has been an obstacle for us."
The Executive Director of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association, Tom Lochner, says it's a challenge to get passed the trade barriers.
"At the end of the day the cost is what the consumer is looking at and if we're cost prohibitive versus other fruits, we're at a competitive disadvantage with the fruit that comes out of Chili, for example."
Lochner says cranberry growers are taking a conservative approach in exporting their product, making sure to develop the market and have product available in adequate supply. Lochner says the cranberry export market has just begun to scratch the surface.
"About ten years ago we were exporting about five percent of our crop; right now close to 30% of the crop is sold on the International markets and that's a substantial increase from where we were a number of years ago but that market continues grow."
Lochner says the US exports cranberries mostly to the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and South Korea. Growers are looking into the market potential in Poland, Mexico and Spain.
Lochner says marketing involves education on the various cranberry products, and how to incorporate the tiny fruit into the diet. Cranberries contribute 350 million dollars to the state economy and 7,200 jobs in Wisconsin.
NOTE: Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton recently returned from an 8-day mission to China as head of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.