China: Cherry import season was "challenging for everyone"
China's cherry import season has been a challenge for all stakeholders along the supply chain, an importer and marketer has said, after an unconfirmed rumor of a positive Covid-19 detection on packaging severely impacted the market.
The rumors of the alleged detection on the packaging of fruit from an unspecified supplying country spread quickly in China in late January, despite there being no official confirmation of a positive detection by Chinese authorities, who emphasized that cherries were entirely safe to consume.
The situation came during a record season for Chilean cherry production, with pre-season estimates forecasting a year-on-year increase of around a third.
George Liu, CEO of one of China's leading e-commerce platforms, Frutacloud, told FreshFruitPortal.com that it has not been an easy campaign.
"It has been a challenging season for everyone in the industry, including growers, exporters, importers, retailers, etc," he said. "But I believe it makes us stronger for the coming season."
He explained the false rumors of a Covid-19 detection "did have a marked impact on the sales of cherries in both wholesale markets and retail channels".
However, he noted that coordinated efforts by the Chilean Cherry Committee, as well as retailers and importers, helped the market to recover somewhat.
Liu also noted that the volumes of Chilean cherries have been "really large" and could be even greater in the future. But he said that there are still many markets - "T2, T3 cities, even T4, T5 cities" - where the fruit can be sold.
This is aided by the rapid expansion of many retailers at present.
"It used to be a long journey from the T1 wholesale market to final consumers in T3-T5 cities, which always causes the price increased and quality issues," he said. "We believe that the cost will decrease and the quality will improve with the expansion of the new retailer, such as Hema(Freshippo), Meituan, etc."