Chilean cherry exporters could struggle with early Chinese New Year

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Chilean cherry exporters could struggle with early Chinese New Year

An earlier Chinese New Year is set to bring challenges for Chilean cherry exporters, who have made their mark in the Asian market with counterseasonal exports of the fruit during a lucrative window.

China's big day of nationwide celebrations will be on Jan. 23, which is nearly two weeks earlier than 2011's Feb. 3 date.

From Shanghai, FoodLinks country manager Arturo Aranda tells it is in Chile's interests for the New Year to be as late as possible, because the first cherries are harvested mid-to-late November.

"Chilean exports to China should follow a growth trend. However, I don't think it will be as explosive as last season, not because of lack of demand but because of the early New Year," he says

"Cherries have managed to position themselves as a characteristic part of Chinese New Year, especially in the large cities where cherries are seen as a luxury product; it's an imported product that gives an air of exclusivity.

"Finally, the red color of the fruit influences all decorations which are in red and gold. These factors generate a high demand and people are willing to pay very good prices, which is important for exporters."

The total volume of imports of cherries brought from Chile to mainland China and Hong Kong last season was over a thousand containers, according to Zhxing Runfeng Food commercial supervisor Bernard Wu.

"We hope this season volumes will continue to grow or at least be maintained. Chile cherries are welcomed by Chinese consumers mainly because of their quality, good taste and presentation," he says.

He adds that last season half of Chile's total cherry harvest was sent to China.

"We expect this season will also be successful with a large increase in volume, and that prices will be maintained or will improve."

iQonsulting executive director Isabel Quiroz, said it would be important to see how the market reacts to the arrival of three charter boats, which are expected to leave Chile early next week. This means the shipments should arrive between Jan. 16-18.

"While it's a very favorable date for the prepatory sales of merchants before New Years', the volume will be around 500 containers, which sets a new sales record in this market, in terms of containers sold in one week, and speculation about how the price will react can already be felt."

"It's very probable that price adjustments will be observed due to the uncertainty of those involved directly in the business, however as in other years, which sold up to 100 containers daily in the market of Jiangnan (Guangzhou), it is very possible that a new sales record will be achieved this season without significantly affecting prices."

Quiroz said Chinese traders increased knowledge of Chilean varieties was a major positive factor.

"They are willing to pay more for Kordia and Regina, followed by Lapins, Sweetheart and Bing. This is a good indicator of market interest for Chilean cherries."

Cherries are Chile's third-largest fresh fruit export to Asia after table grapes and apples. Exports to China last season nearly doubled to 14,387 metric tons (MT), according Asoex figures.

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