With the Chinese market soon to hit the thick of its annual Spring Festival sales spree, one fruit-growing nation looking to make the most of the opportunity is Thailand. At www.freshfruitportal.com, we spoke with two traders of Thai fruit who said mangoes would be a leading item, significant durian volumes would come in a bit too late, and consumers could look forward to coconuts from the South East Asian country this summer.
Thai Fresh Farm representative Mr. Jia said mangoes would make up the bulk of Thai imports for Chinesee New Year, with expectations overall import volume of the tropical fruit set to rise by 20-40% from 2014.
He said for the last campaign, around 2,000-3,000 metric tons (MT) of Thai mangoes entered China via airfreight from Malaysia, and were accepted by Chinese consumers.
Jia expects the retail price of Thai mangoes to reach CNY30-50 (US$4.80-8) each, with variances across regions and sales channels and the average fruit weighing 350g (12.3oz).
One challenge Jia points out is that some unscrupulous merchants will likely mislabel mangoes from the province of Yunnan as Thai; a practices that has not only misled consumers but also "contaminated" the Thai mango brand. Therefore, the executive cautions consumers to buy their Thai mangoes through trustworthy retailers and e-commerce platforms.
When asked about durians, Jia says almost all the fruit on the Chinese market currently come from Vietnam, and that will likely last until early March when large quantities of fresh Thai durians hit the market.
"At the moment, the durians we find in China come from mostly three countries: Malaysia, Viet Nam and Thailand. Malaysian and Vietnamese durians only make up a small portion, with Thai durians comprising the bulk of all durians sold in China. Notably, the Chinese Government also allows fresh durian imports besides the frozen ones."
For both Thai growers and Chinese importers, Thai durians are a fast-growing bulk order business.
"Take 2014 for example. Thai durians entered China at a rate of 100 containers per day, with each container holding up to 20MT of the Thai fruit. Such a rate continued for nearly eight months, as the South East Asian fruit's popularity continued to soar in China. Durian-made desserts are becoming a thing in the life of many Chinese people," says Jia.
"That's why I believe, based on the growth we see right now, it’' completely possible that in the next three to five years the total import volume will be twice as much as it is right now."
However, Jia estimates Thailand's durian production capacity is moving close to its maximum, so to achieve a doubling of output many growers would need to make the switch to the pungent fruit.
For a Thailand-based representative of Chinese company NC-coconut who asked to be known as simply "Eric", coconuts have beome one of the most important produce exports from the South East Asian country. However, due to the fruit's rather late production season between June and September, the Chinese New Year is not its moment of glory.
He said the import volume now is only 30-50% of what it is during the season, but the fruit has become widely popular amongst consumers in eastern China since its entry into the Shanghai market, where a significant daily import rate of 100-120 containers per day has been recorded during the season.
"For Chinese consumers, all they need is a little patience because once summer's around, delicious Thai coconuts will be on their doorsteps waiting to be savored," Eric said.