Direct exports of Belgian pears to China are expected to begin "in the near future" following inspections of the European country's production and facilities by representatives of the Chinese food safety agency AQSIQ.
The inspections, which took place from 12-18 September, are reported to have gone well and the inspectors, who have now returned to Beijing, are thought "more than likely" to rubber-stamp the agreed import protocol signed in the Chinese capital on 18 May 2010.
As a result, all indications suggest that Belgium remains on course to send pears directly to China for the first time this season.
"In one month we hope to start exporting," commented Filip Lowette of Belgian exporter Belgische Fruitveiling (BFV).
On Wednesday, 6 October, several high-ranking government officials from both countries – including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and Flanders minister-president Kris Peeters – took part in a ceremonial signing of the pear import protocol agreement in Brussels during the EU-China Business Summit.
Although the protocol signing was already in place following May's meeting in Beijing, the summit provided an opportunity for the Belgian pear industry to gain some additional publicity for the trade deal.
"The backdrop of the EU-China summit, with the presence of the Chinese premier, formed the ideal scene for a high-level ceremony and confirmation that the audit had a positive outcome for our growers," BFV's Marc Evrard told Fruitnet.com.
"The signing yesterday in Brussels didn’t lend any extra validity to the existing document," he added.
The next phase of the trade agreement will see the Chinese authorities making some administrative adjustments and sending necessary instructions to customs officials, ports and local phytosanitary departments.
Belgian pears, as well as BFV as the exporting organisation and the respective importers will be added to the existing import system, after which time shipments can proceed.