(Dec. 1, 12:30 p.m.) PARLIER, Calif. — California Tree Fruit Agreement members voted to abandon a domestic market development program in favor of concentrating on consumer and category research, trade education and industry resources.

At the Tree Fruit Agreement’s fall meeting Nov. 25, members were given two budget options. One would have continued the organization’s nearly $1 million annual advertising and public relations program, and another that eliminated the program.

The vote for the latter reduces fiscal 2009 spending by $1.8 million.

“It was a matter of putting our funds where they will have the greatest impact,” said Sheri Mierau, president of the Tree Fruit Agreement.

The export market development program remains intact in the organization’s fiscal 2009 budget. The California Tree Fruit Agreement received $2.48 million in fiscal year 2008 for export promotions through the federal Market Access Program, up from $1.94 million in fiscal year 2007.

Mexico is overtaking Taiwan as the No. 1 foreign market for peaches and nectarines, said Gordon Smith, manager of CTFA’s international marketing program. Final export figures for 2008 will not be available until February, he said, but he said the figures through September are encouraging.

“Mexico imported 3.4 million cartons through September this year compared to 2.2 million in all of 2007,” Smith said.

Other major international gains included a 50% increase in exports to Colombia and a 33% increase to New Zealand, he said.

As a result of the elimination of the domestic marketing program, assessments for grower-shippers will be trimmed substantially next year, Mierau said. The size of the reduction will be determined when the budget is finalized in February, she said.

The approved domestic marketing program eliminates advertising in magazines, television and trade publications and printing for point-of-sale materials. Also, Internet advertising is eliminated.

CTFA’s new approach includes an industry advocate category, which focuses on spreading the peach, plum and nectarine message through an Internet blog, Mierau said.

By focusing on consumer and category research and trade education, the organization strengthens its service to retail and foodservice, she said.