U.S. Agricultural Exports to Japan

16 Jan 1995 Subject: Query: U.S. apples exported to Japan?

I wonder if someone on the list can help me with a non-academic question. Recently an AP story on the introduction of Washington state apples into Japan noted in part:

> > ``I'm not sure American apples can compete with Japanese ones, > even though they're cheaper,'' said Toshiko Nemoto, who runs a > fruit shop with her husband. > She said the American apples were sourer and less juicy than > Japanese ones, and that some customers were worried about the wax > on the U.S. fruit -- ``so red and shiny, just like the poisoned > apple in the Snow White story!''

My question has to do with the reference to wax on the apples. Does anyone know if apples in U.S. supermarkets (Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, and other chains) are waxed? I had assumed they were not, and that wax on the apples exported to Japan served a preservative function, even if "good looks" was all that was preserved.

               Phil Brown                                                       

17 Jan 1995 Subject: Re: Query: U.S. ag exports to Japan?

I think most fruits & vegetables sold in normal U.S. supermarkets are waxed. Sometime last year, signs appeared in most markets listing all the veggies that were waxed, and the kind(s) of wax used, along with an assurance that they weren't using animal-based waxes (have a little tallow with your tomato? -- actually, tomatoes aren't waxed, I believe, but citrus, peppers and apples, at least, are).


-- Gary L Hewitt glhewitt@phoenix.princeton.edu

"Who was ever awe-struck about a testator, or sang a hymn on the title to real property?" --George Eliot, _Middlemarch_

17 Jan 1995 Subject: Re: Query: U.S. apples exported to Japan?

I grow apples in a small backyard orchard and buy what I don't grow from a local fruit/produce stand. As an organic gardener, I have checked on the fruits and vegetables sold in stores over the last twenty-five years and have routinely noticed that apples and cucumbers, especially, are coated in wax to prevent dehydration and prolong their shelf life. Feel an apple from a grocery store; it's slightly greasy. Although waxed fruit is allowed to be sold and it's recommended that we wash it before eating, other than scrubbing in abrasive detergent to get the wax off (if indeed it will come off that easily), I don't buy waxed fruits or vegetables unless I plan to peel the skin off. What we lose in peeling are many of the vitamins and fiber. So, I prefer homegrown or roadside stand fruit to months-old waxed substitutes.

Sue Hamburger, Ph.D. Manuscripts Librarian Penn State sxh@psulias.psu.edu

  • 17 Jan 1995 Subject: Re: Query: U.S. apples exported to Japan?

In response to Phil Brown's query:

The Japanese position on importation of food produced in the U.S. can be characterized in absurdly simple terms: protectionism of their inefficient agricultural industries. About 200-300 Japanese apple growers have obstructed the importation of U.S. apples into that country for almost 25 years. They raise one issue, it gets resolved, then they raise another one. The tactic of delay was supplemented with the tactic of impugning the quality and character of American produce. For the past five years, the Japanese have been permitted to station observers in Washington State apple orchards, so that they could see the entire process of cultivation, harvest, and post-harvest processing that U.S. apples undergo. It was only this year that the Japanese finally conceded that U.S. apples were good enough for their markets.

The wax issue is a transparent straw person argument. Wax is commonly used on a number of crops sold here to preserve color and ripeness; it's used on cucumbers, for example, as well as apples, for this purpose. But the wax is food-grade parafin, and most of it washes off when you wash the apple before you eat it--which is always recommended for foods whose peels are edible.

The Japanese know that they cannot compete in the international food markets because their crops are of poorer quality and are more expensive than U.S.-produced commodities. U.S. apples are the world's standard; they have been improved through traditional horticultural breeding practices, and they are in fact cheaper in Japan than Japanese apples. And since Japanese consumers responded by snapping them up immediately, one can draw one's own conclusions about what the Japanese consumer is willing to buy, at what price, and at what standard of quality.

Walter Mondale, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, said in an interview on NPR the other night that this deal marked a real breakthrough in U.S.-Japanese trade relations. I think the AP story unfortunately magnified the extent of Japanese resistance to U.S. food by quoting a fruit dealer with connections to the growers there. The real trick will be when U.S. rice may be finally imported into Japan without the imposition of exhorbitant duties.

Vicky Saker Woeste

Victoria Saker Woeste        NOTE NEW SIMPLER E-MAIL ADDRESS:                   
American Bar Foundation      vswoeste@nwu.edu                                   

312/988-6602 312/988-6579 (fax)

19 Jan 1995 Subject: Re: Query: U.S. apples exported to Japan?

I believe most supermarket apples are waxed; that's why they look so shiny. There may even be a message in your supermarket indicating this. Many other fruits and vegetables are waxed, too.

Jonathan Liebowitz UMass-Lowell liebowitj@woods.uml.edu

20 Jan 1995 Subject: Re: Query: U.S. apples exported to Japan

I was just hired to do some research for an export company on US Agricultural exports to Japan. I will meet with my new (PT) employer tomorrow to find out more.

I will ask them if they will post their findings (or an abstract of their report) on this list. I'll keep you posted.

Sandra Mathews-Lamb skmlamb@carina.unm.edu Dept of History UNM Albuquerque, NM 87131 (505) 277-2451 (505) 277-6023 FAX

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Unit: H-Net program at UIC History Department Email: H-Net@uicvm.uic.edu
Posted: 17 Jul 1995

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