Chilean exports of the D’Agen plum variety to China have grown significantly during the current season, causing average prices to drop to half the level registered last year, exporters have told FreshFruitPortal.com.
This variety has traditionally been sold in its dried form, but some companies have more recently been exporting it fresh in a bid to fetch higher prices.
Rafael Hurtado, general manager of Elicura, said: “The D’Agen plum is a variety that is for the dried fruit market and everything is geared towards that on the farms … [But] a few years ago they started sending fresh fruit to China, and the consumers really like it because of its sweetness.”
However, this current season of fresh exports has not been a successful one.
“Originally the industry was doing volumes of 30,000 boxes or 50,000 boxes, but that has been going up over the last two or three years. Two years ago we did 100,000 boxes and last year we got up to one million boxes,” he said.
This year, however, he said that expectations among exporters are for exports to reach five million boxes - “a very large volume”.
“This is harvested in a very short time, around four weeks, and so all the volumes arrive at the same time and in the end the result was not good,” he said.
Raimundo Valenzuela, Greenvic’s export manager for Asia, said D’Agen exports had “grown a lot over the last few years”.
“It’s a good market, it’s a product that was selling, but we weren’t expecting such a huge volume increase from Chile and that obviously put a lot of pressure on the market."
He added: "It was a change from 500 containers to around 2,300 containers from one year to the next, which collapsed the market.”
In addition, a large quantity of poor quality sweet with low Brix levels was shipped in the early part of the season, he said.
Hurtado echoed these comments, saying that many in the industry had harvested unripe fruit with poor color and taste.
René Wunkaus of the Cherry Group Export, noted that D’Agen exports started two weeks earlier this season than in the previous one.
According to reports from the Guangzhou and Shanghái wholesale markets, during the 2017-18 season the average per-box price was 210RMB (US$31.20), while this current season it was 110RMB (US$16.30).
“At current levels, the fresh fruit business is worse than the dried fruit market. So, after this season, producers and exporters will decide how to move forward, because with this volume - this year at least - it demonstrated that the market is not capable of absorbing it,” Wunkaus said.