It’s Possible to Buy Washington Apples in Rural China (and That’s Not a Good Thing)

It’s Possible to Buy Washington Apples in Rural China (and That’s Not a Good Thing)

By Morgan Dolan

 

“I, as the resident globetrotter of the General Store team, have recently been in Zhuhai, a small city in the Pearl River Delta.

The Pearl River Delta is a region in Guangdong Province home to the largest concentration of businesses in China. Huge cities like Guangzhou (population 13 million), Shenzhen (10 million), and Dongguan (8 million) are all within an hour from each other. The semi-autonomous states of Hong Kong and Macau also reside to the south of the Delta.

The little town of Zhuhai is not more than an hour away from any of these mega-cities. Of course by little town, I do mean a population of 1.5 million (this constitutes a little town by Delta standards). It is also about 30 minutes from Zhuhai to the countryside. Outside the cities, the Pearl River Delta quickly reverts back to rice paddies and farmland.

 

Zhuhai Countryside

 

Being so close to farms, it is easy to embrace farm-to-table in certain respects. Depending on the time of year you can easily go out and pick your own produce. Then depending on what you may like for dinner, you can also pick your own chicken for a farm-fresh chicken dinner.

In Zhuhai, I visited a fruit stand:

 

IMG_0073

 

This fruit stand, in the middle of a working class neighborhood, also had a wide offering of melons, oranges, plums, etc.

Upon speaking with the proprietor about the origin of some of the fruits, she told me they came from places like Yunnan (another province in China), Vietnam and … then I was stopped in my tracks — some of the fruits had come from even farther away:

 

IMG_0071

Dole and Yakima apples available 16 time zones away.

 

IMG_0072

American grapes.

 

It seems absurd to me to find these types of fruits all the way on the far side of the world.  The fruit was expensive – nearly 3x the price per half kilo of the domestic Chinese apples. Furthermore, these Red Delicious, which so often have that nice crunch when they arrive in my mom’s Seattle kitchen, tasted mealy and soft. Meanwhile, the grapes were way more than I ever remember paying for them in the United States.

Where was the local fruit? This stand also had domestic apples on offer, which happened to be less expensive and much more flavorful, but importing Washington apples to China makes about as much sense to me as importing New Zealand apples to Germany.

In a study conducted in Germany looking at local Braeburn apples (also a kind produced in Washington so there is a local option for our fellow Washingtonians) as compared to imported Braeburns from New Zealand. They found a 27% greater energy requirement for the imported fruit (Environmental Science and Pollution Research, May 2005, Volume 12,Issue 3, pp 125-127).

So imported fruit is more costly to the wallets and the planet. Is there any reason why it makes sense to have Washington fruits hauled halfway around the world besides a desire for variety?


What do you think? As the General Store Seattle continues to grow and our global community grows as well, we hope to feature more and more interesting articles about how people are living life local around the world. If you have any ideas, leads or experiences that you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at morgan@thegeneralstoreseattle.com.”

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