January 16, 2016 / 12:32 PM / 2 years ago

EU fruit growers look to U.S. market to offset Russian sanctions

A French farm worker harvests apples in a 8 hectare apple orchard at the Verger d'Epinoy near Cambrai, northern France in this September 3, 2014 file photo.Pascal Rossignol

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European fruit growers could be able to export apples and pears to the United States later this year, the EU executive said on Saturday, following the publication of new U.S. rules.

European Union producers, hit by Russian sanctions against them are keen for new markets.

A joint statement by the EU health, trade and agricultural commissioners welcomed the publication by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of draft measures to be taken by EU growers and other authorities that it said were "a necessary step".

"Opening the market for the 2016 harvest, i.e. by September 2016, could be feasible, if all parties continue their efforts," the statement said.

It estimated the projected value of exports to the United States at around 10 million euros ($11 million), or a 0.5 percent market share, which it said was modest but would be "a welcome relief to a sector under severe strain".

Moscow in 2014 imposed an embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the European Union, as well as the United States, in retaliation for Western sanctions.

The European Union, which is working towards a much grander trade deal with the United States, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), says it has been increasing levels of engagement at the highest level.

It has been seeking to simplify U.S. market access since 2007 for eight fruit-growing EU nations -- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal.

Reporting by Barbara Lewis, editing by Louise Heavens

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