PSA: Apples!


Cider Week is coming up soon (and then way later in the spring Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival will happen). So, I decided to make my post this week about apples. Apples are by far my favorite fruit, and I wanted to see what’s going on with them. I come from Winchester, where the Apple Blossom Festival takes place, and apples and apple products are local and abundant. So I was surprised when I found out that most of our apple juice is made in China and then shipped over. Why is our apple juice produced in China? I looked it up, and it’s hard to find anything in the news about apples that isn’t about IPads or IPhones, but about the fruit. IPods and IPhones are also Apples that are made in China and shipped over (Ha, ha).

 NPR suggests that there may be less fruit being picked due to lack of seasonal workers. Apple picking is a physically demanding job that hasn’t yet been replaced by a machine, though one is being tested. New technology is used outside of picking, though. This NPR story shows how apples are rinsed, and scanned to see size, coloration and any defects. Growers have also been taking out older apple trees and replacing them with smaller ones so that they are closer together, and easier to pick and maintain. Still, if every state in the US grows apples, but are there not enough for juice?

The Christian Science Monitor published earlier this year that sixty percent of US apple juice comes from China. The Chinese government started a plan in 1994 to start growing apples, and since American farmers have struggled to compete with their prices of juice from concentrate. Currently, China is the world’s largest producer of apples. And now that China wants to sell its apples in the US, many US growers are pushing for country of origin labeling (NY Times). It seems like updating the Farm Bill would benefit US farmers- and the environment! All that trade must produce a lot of CO2. 

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Research has already looked into the matter. China’s cheap labor affords them the ability to produce a lot and afford to ship it, too. The NYT article states that the apple juice is made and shipped to New York for less than farmers can harvest it and process it in the US. The Tyndall Centre has tried to calculate China’s CO2 emissions from products imported and exported. Their report brought up an important point: Countries ‘avoid’ emitting CO2 themselves by importing products (the emissions are just from some other country). Whereas countries are seen as responsible for the emissions they create while production and shipment of exports. That might not be the best way to calculate emissions, but its what Tyndall used. Trade does produce a lot of carbon emissions, and it really varies due to product. It takes much more energy to ship cars from Japan than it does to ship apple concentrate from China.

Do you think updating the farm bill is a good idea to help US Farmers and to reduce emissions? Or should consumers make an effort to choose products made in America? “Made in America” has become a popular slogan used alongside “Buy fresh, buy local” but is it effective; or is cost really the deciding factor? Are people more likely to pay more for the local products or just choose the cheaper imported ones? 




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