I had the chance on Feb. 9 to chat with Jeff Correa, international marketing director at Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest.

3:57 p.m. Tom Karst:Thanks for taking time for a chat today.   I understand you just returned from Fruit Logistica. How would you describe the event to someone who has never been there before?

3:59 p.m. Jeff Correa: It is "the" fresh produce show for the world. It is the biggest in size and in attendance. And it is the best place to see what other countries; other companies are doing in the fresh produce arena in terms of varieties, packaging, marketing, etc.

4:00 p.m. Tom: Who were some important customers of U.S. pears you saw in Berlin? What is on their minds, relative to the world economy and the trade?

4:07 p.m. Jeff: We met with major importers of USA Pears from all over the globe. European importers and the Russian importers were the biggest in number, but we met with importers from India, the Middle East, Mexico and Brazil. Also, Fruit Logistica is a great place to meet with interested importers from new, potential markets in Eastern Europe or North Africa.

We discussed how the USA Pear season has been going so far and how the impacts of the world economy have impacted trade. Fortunately, the world-wide recession has not impacted USA Pear exports as much as I have expected. In Russia, for instance, European exporters mentioned that their exports to Russia were down substantially due to a credit crunch in Russia. However, USA Pear exports are up by 20% over last season and are on pace for another record season to Russia.

4:08 p.m. Tom: In your position, you probably have the chance to visit a fair number of export markets every year. How do you pick and choose where to go, and what are your priorities when you take a trip?

4:14 p.m. Jeff: Since I oversee the Pear Bureau's promotional programs we conduct in 39 (countries), it is not possible to travel to each market each season. So I will focus on certain markets each season and try to go to our bigger markets every one to two years.

The only exception to that is Mexico which is our largest market and where I will travel to two to three times during the season. I will use the major trade shows around the world, Asia Fruit Logistica, World Food Moscow, Middle East Fruit Congress, Fruit Logisitica and ANTAD as the focal point of a trip so I can meet with a lot of customers in a shorter amount of time.

4:15 p.m. Tom: That makes sense. I'm sure one of your top concerns is getting the Mexican tariff issue resolved. What do buyers in Mexico say about the effect of the retaliatory duty?

4:22 p.m. Jeff: The retaliatory duty has had a substantial effect on the prices of USA Pears to Mexico. This has also led to an overall price depression this season because Mexico accounts for about 20% of the total USA Pear production.

The volume this season is up about 15% over last season, but the crop is about 20% larger than the 2008-09 crop. So I think there has been some reduction in the export volume to Mexico because of the duty. The major concern is what will the impact of the duty have on our market share when Argentina enters the market in mid April. Last year we dodged a bullet because Argentina had some phytosanitary issues and they only sent about 1/4 the normal volume they ship to Mexico. So, if the duty is not eliminated by April or May, this could be very problematic for our industry.

\4:24 p.m. Tom: Jeff,  thanks for your insight and time today. As I remember, you first connected with the produce industry with the grape commission in California - Bruce Obbink and Amy Philpott were there at the time, I believe. Is that a correct recollection, and what do you recall about those days? Did you have an "industry connection" before then?

4:28 p.m. Jeff: Yes. I started with the California Table Grape Commission with Bruce Obbink and Amy Philpott. I worked with the Grape Commission for nearly three years before joining the Pear Bureau. Previously my connection with the industry was at the field level working with my dad, who managing the farming operation of peach, prune and walnut orchards in northern California.

4:31 p.m. Tom: You have had quite a wealth of bright and fun mentors, Bruce, Amy and Kevin, at least..... Jeff, thanks for your time. One more question. What do you like to do in your spare time there in the Portland area?

4:33 p.m. Jeff: Volleyball is now my sport of choice; and I play golf wherever it decides to stop raining here in Portland.

4:34 p.m. Tom: Ha. Better than the snow and bitter cold we have in Kansas right now. Jeff thanks again for making time.