China opens door to U.S. pear growers

Pear Bureau Northwest said today, United States-grown pears have officially gained access to the Chinese market.
“We have been working on this for 20 years and the official request from our government happened in 1994,” said Kevin D. Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest, in making the announcement.
“Based on our exports to Hong Kong and Taiwan and the overall market size of China, it could easily rank among the top five export markets for USA Pears within the next two or three seasons,” Moffitt said.
Here’s a look at what the international market has looked like in recent years.

Consumer Federation of America reports the nation’s largest auto insurers frequently charge
higher premiums to safe drivers than to those who recently caused an accident.
In its most recent survey of insurance premiums, CFA found two-thirds of the 60 cases studied, large auto insurers quoted higher premiums to safe drivers than to those responsible for an accident.
In more than three out of five cases with higher premiums, the premium quoted the safe driver exceeded the premium quoted the unsafe driver by at least 25 percent.
“State insurance regulators should require auto insurers to explain why they believe factors such as education and income are better predictors of losses than are at-fault accidents,” said J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and former Texas Insurance Commissioner. “Policymakers should ask why auto insurers are permitted to discriminate on the basis of nondriving-related factors such as occupation or education.”
CFA priced policies in 12 major cities using the websites of the five largest auto insurers — State Farm, Allstate, GEICO, Farmers, and Progressive — who control more than half the private auto insurance market.

The National Retail Federation projects retail industry sales will increase 3.4 percent in 2013, slightly less than the preliminary 4.2 percent growth seen in 2012.
NRF includes most traditional retail categories such as auto parts and accessories stores, non-store categories, discounters, department stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations, and restaurants in its analysis.
The federation said fiscal cliff wrangling in Washington led to weak 3 percent holiday retail growth.
Shop.org, NRF’s digital division, expects online sales in 2013 to grow between 9.0 and 12.0 percent. Online sales in 2012 during the months of November and December last year grew 11.1 percent.
“What we witnessed during the holiday season is an indication of what we are likely to see in 2013. Consumers read troubling economic headlines every day and look at their bottom lines at the end of the month, and they don’t like what they see,” NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay said. “Pushing fiscal policy decisions down the road will lead to even greater uncertainty, and will continue to impact consumers’ desire and ability to spend on discretionary items. The administration and congress need to pursue and enact policies that lead to growth and economic expansion, or it could be another challenging year for retailers and consumers alike.”
NRF’s forecast took into account:
• Employment: The labor market continues its modest recovery but 2013 is not expected to result in meaningful acceleration in growth. As of December 2012, the unemployment rate has held steady for the last two months at 7.9 percent. Retailers on average employed 150,000 more workers in 2012, and the industry remains one of the biggest employers in the world.
• Income growth: Consumers are constrained by modest growth in income, and recent legislation passed in January increased payroll taxes for millions of workers, further limiting and Americans spending decisions.
• Housing: NRF expects the housing sector to continue to improve and the fundamentals for growth to see continued gains in 2013.
• Inflation: Price pressures continue to be contained. NRF expects the Consumer Price Index to increase 1.9 percent in 2013, below the 2.1 percent increase in 2012.
• Consumer confidence: Current consumer attitudes are likely weighed down because of the handling of the fiscal cliff and the increase in payroll taxes. We expect confidence to improve as the pace of the recovery accelerates in the second half of 2013.

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    Greg Stiles

    Covering the Southern Oregon business and economy since 2001. Read Full
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