Exports of U.S.-grown fruit to China exceeded $247 million by the eighth month of 2011 - a 17 per cent increase over the same period last year, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The increase of fruit sales to China was aided in part by a new trend: Buying fruit on the Internet.

The startup FruitDay.com for the last two years has partnered with the Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai to promote fresh fruit via Internet television, which is exploding in popularity across Asia as more and more of the population gets broadband access.

FruitDay.com reported that they sold 3,500 boxes of oranges within 30 minutes of appearing on a Chinese shopping channel called the OJC. They also reported selling $100,000 worth of northwest cherries during that time period.


(Photo/Agricultural Trade Office Shanghai Staff)



People in China who order fruit on FruitDay.com receive their shipment in a styrofoam box.

The Web site and its suppliers' success is in step with the Obama administration's goal to double U.S. exports by 2014, a reversal of the trend in recent years to outsource production to other countries. The emphasis on exporting agricultural products above and beyond grain should create jobs and generate revenue for rural economies, the administration hopes.

The U.S. wealth of agricultural products is a unique portfolio of export goods rivaled by few countries. Thinking of Bing cherries as a unique commodity that holds its own along with U.S.-made jet aircraft, little blue pills, and supercomputers may not be at first intuitive, but it is one of the few things the country has left to keep cash flowing in.