Turkey, the world's largest cherry producer, is eyeing a strong future in China, one of the biggest importers of the fruit, having recently secured improved export protocols.
Turkey gained cherry market access to China in 2017, but the protocol signed required the fruit to be stored in 1ºC or less for 16 days. This affected the quality of the cherries and resulted in very limited exports.
However, in recent weeks Chinese authorities approved a fumigation protocol, which Turkish exporters say is much more favorable. The first exports under this new protocol reportedly took place on June 28.
At an event in Turkey to celebrate the occasion, Chinese Ambassador Deng Li was quoted by Gidahatti as saying: "I believe that China will become Turkey's most important cherry consumer."
Currently, there are reported to be 39 production sites, 15 packhouses and 13 fumigation facilities approved to handle China-bound Turkish cherries.
Turkey exported 76,000 metric tons (MT) of cherries worth US$161 million last year and is among the eight countries that have gained formal market access to mainland China for fresh cherries.
An industry representative expects this improved market access to help the total export figure to grow.
"Despite the fact that we signed the deal in the middle of the season, our exporters managed to build a network and started to export cherries," Hayrettin Ucak, chairman of the Aegean Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association, was quoted as saying by Daily Sabah.
"Thanks to these figures, this year, we aim to reach an export value of US$200 million."
Turkey's cherry season runs from May through September, and so the country would compete with the likes of the U.S. and Canada in the Chinese market. Currently its main markets are Europe and Russia.
In 2018, China imported more than US$1.3 billion worth of fresh cherries, according to China customs data.