Chilean nectarine exporters outline plans for inaugural Chinese mainland deal
Copefrut export manager Andrés Ruiz has very good expectations about the opening of China, but while access is expected in November his company won't be shipping until January.
"We were waiting three years for this protocol more or less. China is a market that consumes a lot of nectarines, so we were fighting a long time for it to open," Ruiz tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"I believe the great potential that China has for nectarines is in color and large sizes. That's where we should focus as an industry.
"The impact the presence this summer fruit could generate during the Chinese winter, with a striking red and juicy nectarine, is spectacular."
Copefrut's first shipments to China will be the Venus variety, which has red skin and yellow flesh, with an expected 60,000-80,000 boxes.
"Some varieties start early with small volumes in November. In December other varieties appear with not too much volume, and in January is when we have Venus, a variety planted in Chile and which I think accounts for 30-40% of volume.
Historically, Chile has focused its nectarine exports on the U.S. market which offers good opportunities in November and December, however the arrival of Venus nectarines in January sometimes upsets the market.
"Without a doubt, having Asia as an alternative will be able to decompress the United States, and perhaps prices will stay higher and more stable during the season and not with these large falls we've seen until now."
Of the 56,960 metric tons (MT) of nectarines exported by Chile in 2015-16, almost half went to the United States at 24,873MT, according to the Chilean Office of Agricultural Studies and Policy (Odepa).
The U.S. was followed by Brazil, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, each with over 5,000MT, while next in line were Taiwan (4,224MT), Mexico (3,283MT), the U.K. (1,868MT), Colombia (1,621MT) and Russia (926MT).
"In nectarines Chile mainly competes with Australia in Asia," says Ruiz.
"But I wouldn't say Australia has large exports of nectarines. It's mainly based in doing limited airfreight volumes."
Rather than focusing on the competition, the executive says the biggest challenge is maintaining quality.
"We already know what happens when you don't send the right fruit to Asia. The nectarines have to arrive with a beautiful color, good size.
"They are expecting a sweet and juicy fruit. We could make a mistake if we don't put the right pressure on growers and have the right varieties to send - not just any can sell well in Asia. A good one can get return values of up to US$2 per kilo (2.2 pounds)."
Ruiz's views are echoed by Tuniche Fruits managing director Matías Alamos.
"It is very important that the Chinese market has opened for nectarines, but this doesn't mean we can send whatever - there has to be a lot of care so that this market opening makes us aware that we have to send the best quality possible," Alamos says.
"The worst thing we could do is have the end consumer start to have mistrust because some products go well and others don't. It is a tremendous opportunity to have this market open and we have to milk it, getting good sales but also arriving with a good product.
Alamos adds China has been a large consumer of white nectarines, and this is why Chile has recently been increasingly planting more white varieties that appeal to the Chinese palate with less acidity. Despite this preference, he still thinks there are great opportunities for the Venus variety in China.
Tuniche ships around 200,000 boxes per season, starting in late December with England, the U.S. and Taiwan as its main export destinations. Now, China is well and truly added to that list.
For the new president of grower association Fedefruta, Luis Schmidt, the opening means the matter of formal direct access will be resolved for 600,000-800,000 boxes of fruit.
"It could even exceed one million in a market as important as China for this fruit," Schmidt says.
"People are very happy about this and I'd like to make the most of this by congratulating the authorities of SAG (Agriculture and Livestock Service) and [Agriculture] Minister Furche, because this opens new possibilities in such a relevant market."