Chilean cherry exporters say China situation "critical" as market tanks

Chilean cherry exporters say China situation "critical" as market tanks

The Chilean fruit export sector says the situation in the Chinese market is "critical" following rumors that packaging for imported cherries contained positive Covid-19 samples.

Chile's Asoex said that movement in wholesale markets is just 4 percent of what would normally be expected for this time of year, while retail sales fell by 63 percent last week after the unconfirmed reports spread widely on social media.

The crisis comes at a key moment in the Chilean cherry season, just ahead of the key Chinese New Year sales period in early February and with the majority of the bumper crop still to be sold.

There have already been more than 200,000 digital articles published on social media, reaching more than 2.7 billion impressions, according to a joint statement on Monday by Asoex, Fedefruta and the National Agriculture Society (SNA).

The groups say that this has kept imported cherries as a "trending topic" in China, maintaining "a critical situation in the commercialization of cherries" in the Chilean cherry industry's leading market.

The Chinese state media, CCTV, made a new report on the social network Weibo in which it denied alleged new detections of Covid in cherry boxes. However, 72% of the comments were negative, the groups said.

In a meeting between the Chilean government and private sector on Monday, it was agreed that efforts to communicate with the Chinese authorities would be intensified in order to address the crisis.

They also agreed that the cherry marketing campaign would be stepped up in order to restore confidence in the quality and safety of Chilean cherries.

“All necessary situation monitoring meetings will be held.

The industry trusts that joint work between the governments of Chile and China will allow us to regain the trust of consumers and distributors, reaffirming the rigorous sanitary processes that govern our cherries, from production to marketing, since there is not any risk when consuming our product in international markets,” the statement said.