Chinese fresh produce imports continue to rise

Tue 21/01/2020 by Richard Wilkinson
Chinese fresh produce imports continue to rise

In the first eight months of 2019, China imported more than 5.11 million tons of fresh fruit for a value of US$7.32 billion, thus recording a growth of 35% and 30% respectively compared to the same period of 2018, according to data from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The top five categories are durians (US$1.37 million, + 55%), cherries ($1.02 million, -1%), bananas ($770 million, + 38%), mangoes ($750 million, + 138%) and table grapes ($630 million, + 16%).

Kiwifruit also recorded remarkable import growth both in terms of volume and value: at the beginning of September 2019 kiwifruit imported from Italy, New Zealand, Chile and Italy represented 97.7% of the total, with an increase respectively of 82%, 17% and 43%. Although the price of fruit in China has started to drop after a period of continuous growth, it is still 30% higher than the average: in the apple sector, the largest supplier is New Zealand, which in 2019 started to export its first variety, the sweet red Breeze, while pear exports are also growing strongly (2,800 tons, + 55%).

Arrival of bananas from Mexico and grapes from Argentina

The Philippines, Ecuador and Vietnam remain the main banana exporters to China, jointly controlling 92% of the market, with growth of + 17%, + 135% and + 101% respectively. However, stiff competition is emerging from Mexico, which gained access to China for its bananas at the beginning of 2020. Other major news in the panorama of Chinese imports is the arrival of Argentine table grapes following the signing of the phytosanitary protocol. In the citrus field, the main exporter to China remains Egypt, the sixth largest producer of oranges in the world and the main exporter. By October 2019, Egypt had shipped 191,000 tons (+ 107%) to the Chinese market, mainly Washington Navel, Valencia, Navelate, Cara Cara, New Hall and Navelina.

87% of Chilean cherry exports go to China

China’s main cherry supplier, Chile exported 129,000 tons of product to the Asian giant in 2019, worth US$870 million (-4%). Chile intends to keep this position, considering that the Chinese market absorbs 87% of its total cherry exports. One of the most interesting factors remains the continuous growth of online commerce: by the end of 2021, the value of the fruit and vegetables purchased via e-commerce is expected to be around US$72 billion. In the last year alone, the volume of purchases online grew by 41.2%, with 28% of consumers making purchases at least three times a week. This phenomenon is favoured by the entry into the fresh food market of e-commerce giants such as Alibaba and Meanwhile, Chinese fruit exports appear to be in decline: last year, they totalled 1.6 million tons ($2.5 billion, -16%), including apples (415,000 tons, -45% ), citrus fruits (267,000 tons, + 25%), table grapes (125,000 tons, + 14%), pears (214,000 tons, -35%) and peaches (110,000 tons, + 88%).

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