China: Guangdong pineapple exporters set sights on Western markets
Guangdong province in southeast China produces around 700,000 tons of 12 different pineapple varieties yearly. Their primary markets are currently Russia, Hong Kong, Central Asia, Singapore, Dubai, and the local Chinese market. However, local producers are starting to look towards the west to expand their business.
“Most pineapples in the European market come from South and Central America, but in Guangdong, we have pineapples everywhere, and they are a lot sweeter than what they are used to here (they can reach up to 23-25 degrees Brix compared to 15 on average from the MD-2 variety),” Owen Chen, a pineapple farmer and founder of Xuwen Muchsweet Produce Cooperatives told FreshFruitPortal during Macfrut 2023.
Owen attended the 2023 edition of Macfrut last week to promote his pineapples in Europe for the first time, along with 26 other Chinese companies featured in the event. He presented his four main varieties: Jinzuan pineapples, mango pineapples, watermelon pineapples and snack pineapples.
“Our pineapples are expensive in China, almost like cherries at retail price, especially our products because they have less fiber, and they are sweeter than the ones that are imported. So we are looking for markets and importers that are willing to pay our price,” said Chen.
At the event, Owen understood the complexities of entering a new market, and even though the people that tried his products really liked them, not everyone is willing to pay the higher price.
The mango pineapple, which looks smaller than a usual western pineapple, but with the same characteristics, actually tastes like mango. This pineapple is not being exported currently and in the local Chinese market, it sells for around $10 USD a piece.
Chen said that they are marketing this particular variety to a younger audience, mainly online.
“Everything, every fruit is selling through e-commerce in China, if you can ship it, you can sell it, because they want things quickly and easily to their door, so they can get these products in 2 or 3 days, even in 24 hours,” he said.
Complexities of exporting the Guangdong pineapple
There is one particular challenge when trying to export these pineapples which is due to their high sweetness.
“The shelf life of these pineapples is short, which is an issue when trying to export to Europe or even America. With air freight, it would be possible, but this option is very expensive,” said Owen.
Even though through air he can only ship one ton at a time, essentially, for Chen and his company it depends entirely on the market and the buyer. If the market is open, he says, he is willing to negotiate.
Owen trusts that new technology can be developed to increase the shelf life of his product.
Regarding the event, he found it difficult to connect with local importers from Italy, Chen said they did not seem very interested in the new pineapple varieties. He felt that his product was better received by buyers coming from Dubai, some of which already know his product.