Okanagan cherry growers are celebrating the opening of a long-sought new export market in South Korea.
Hopes are for a lucrative new stream of revenue for what is already Canada’s second-most valuable export fruit crop, second only to blueberries.
“Our growers and industry partners look forward to building long-lasting relationships with Korean customers and cannot wait to see cherries branded with the Maple Leaf in stores across South Korea,” Sukhpaul Bal, a Kelowna cherry grower and president of the B.C. Cherry Association, said in a Wednesday release from the federal government.
B.C. produces more than 95% of Canada’s sweet cherry crop, with the vast majority coming from the Okanagan. Growers have hoped to gain access to South Korean markets since the signing of a trade deal between that country and Canada in 2015.
“With new access to the South Korean market, growers in B.C. can continue to showcase their cherries around the world and expand trading relationships,” Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in the release.
Under the Canada-Korea Free Trade agreement, tariffs on Canadian cherries have dropped from 24% to less than five percent, with full elimination by 2024.
Last year, South Korea imported more than $208 million worth of fresh cherries from around the world.
Canada’s worldwide exports of cherries last year were valued at $78 million.