The Chilean nectarine industry will likely see a change in Asian market distribution this upcoming season, with China expected to take more fruit this upcoming second full season.
Gonzalo Matamala, general manager for China at Chile’s largest nectarine exporter, GESEX, told Fresh Fruit Portal that while total exports are expected to remain similar to last year, China would likely see a 10% rise at the expense of Taiwan.
“If you see the numbers from last year, Taiwan is coming down strong,” said Matamala.
“Taiwan has been the big market for nectarines in the past years before the opening of the Chinese market [in February 2017], but you see that in terms of its economy and demand, they are going down, so you have to allocate the fruit to other markets.”
He said Taiwan last year received around 600,000 boxes of nectarines from Chile, but the projection this year is only 400,000 boxes freeing up 200,000 additional boxes for China.
Tough last season in China
Chilean nectarines had not performed as well as anticipated in China last season, according to Matamala, even during Chinese New Year which normally sees high demand and prices.
“At the beginning, the results were very good, similar to prices of cherries, and in some weeks even higher,” he said.
“But when the season approached Chinese New Year we saw a very big drop in prices. A couple of weeks later after Chinese New Year, the prices increased again – not as big as pre-Chinese New Year, but there were still some increases.
“Particularly for Chinese New Year, the season was very tough. The demand didn’t increase – this year it was very strange.”
Matamala attributed the strange situation to the large Chilean cherry volumes in the market. In addition, he said that Australia – Chile’s biggest nectarine competitor – also exported a lot more nectarines to China this year.
‘Everyone seems to want to increase’
However, he is confident that the Chinese market will still be able to absorb the additional volumes for the next season, due to begin in late October.
“For many retailers, engaging in a program last season was very tough because they didn’t have any previous experience with nectarines from Chile,” said Matamala.
“For this season, based on what we have discussed with them, everyone seems to want to increase their volumes. Also, the Chinese New Year comes early next year, so that would be interesting.”
Matamala has been meeting retailers in China over the past few weeks, including China’s second-biggest e-commerce player JD.com. But the company will continue to focus on chain supermarkets and fruit shops, where the greatest demand still lies.
“What we are experiencing is a bigger demand of the supermarkets and retail areas, more so than the wholesale portion. E-commerce is still small – we meet with them every year and hope to do something with them in that regard but you never know,” said Matamala.
“Our distributors had put some of the nectarines in different channels including e-commerce for the last season, but it wasn’t like the demand that we had expected, but I believe this will change in the future.
“For many online retailers, all of the varieties from Chile were new – they didn’t really know and were probably more skeptical of what to expect. With more time and promotions, this sector will probably increase.”
More yellow-fleshed nectarines in the Chinese market in the future
Unlike consumers in the west, Chinese consumers tend to have a preference for white-fleshed nectarines. While this has not changed, Matamala expects an uptick in exports of yellow-fleshed varieties.
“We and other exporters exported yellow-fleshed nectarines [to China this year] and the results were actually not bad, said Matamala.
“Besides that, you see that the Australians are doing the same with the yellow nectarines. Not now, not next season, but in the future I see that yellow-fleshed nectarines will have a big market in China.”
He believes that these consumer preferences could shape Chile’s future nectarine production plans.
“I think all the knowledge we are getting from this recent opening of the Chinese market will shape a little bit of the industry in Chile. We used to have regular varieties but companies including us are now growing new varieties to target the Chinese market – especially those sweeter white-fleshed nectarines.”
“These couple of years we will see what is the trend and probably new change will happen in Chile.”