On January 8, 2019, the first shipment of 160 tons of Argentine cherries was shipped to the Asian giant. In 2017, China imported US$771 million of cherries, representing 31% of the total volume of imports worldwide. Its main suppliers were Chile and US.
During the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November 2018, the governments of China and Argentina signed a series of bilateral agreements, which included the opening of the Chinese market for cherries. Adolfo Storni, president of Cerezas Argentinas, said, “It has been a season with positive and negative aspects. One positive aspect is that the international market has had good prices. As every year, Chile focuses its exports on China, and then leaves us the quality markets of the US, Canada and the EU. On the other hand, Argentina, specifically Río Negro and Neuquén, have had rains before and during the harvest which affected production, leading to an estimated drop in exports of 20% in 2019. Unfortunately, this has been happening quite often in recent years due to climate change. What’s more, tax policies imposed in Argentina led to an increase in costs and therefore much lower profitability than expected.” Regarding the opening of China, he stressed that this is a great achievement: “We are all aware of what this means. The potential for the development and growth of Argentina’s cherries is enormous. We will have to work hard to achieve the quality, calibre and colour standards that Chinese consumers want, but we understand that Argentina has an excellent product and, after a couple of years, we should be a more important player.” Argentina faces certain trade restrictions that put it at a disadvantage compared to its competitors when it comes to reaching international markets, such as the lack of Free Trade Agreements. Argentina’s cherries face levies of 12% to enter the EU and 10% to enter China. In contrast, Chile reaches both destinations with a 0% tariff.
The first export, of eight containers of fruit from establishments in Río Negro, Neuquén and Chubut, went by sea via the Pacific and was supervised by the Chinese phytosanitary technicians, who approved compliance with the agreed protocol. There is still the possibility of exporting by air and reaching the Asian markets before the end of the year where better prices are obtained. In March, another delegation of Chinese technicians will visit Argentina to make progress on that issue.
Cerezas Argentinas S.A. and Frutos de los Lagos make first shipments to China
Cerezas Argentinas SA, located in the area of the Central Valley of Río Negro in Patagonia (fly-free region) is distinguished by its fruit’s sanitary standards, outstanding quality, excellent size, colour and sweetness. Together with other producers from the area, it has made one of the first official exports to China. “China is the main importer of cherries worldwide and the strengthening of our commercial relationship with this country will allow us to consider it our main market in the future,” said Adolfo Storni, president of the company. He also stressed: “This first export is the result of joint work between entities in the sector: SENASA, the Ministry of Production and Labour of the Nation, the Argentine Embassy in China, the Foreign Ministry, CAPCI, the producing provinces, national government entities and the private sector.” Cerezas Argentinas and Frutos de los Lagos packed one container each of the Sweetheart variety, a late variety with an excellent dark colour. The fruit is very firm, has a high sugar content, and very good conditions for travel in containers. Frutas de los Lagos has a plantation of 128 hectares strategically located in the productive valley of the department of Sarmiento, in the province of Chubut, surrounded by the natural resources of Argentine Patagonia, whose geoclimatic conditions are very favourable for organic agriculture. Storni said, “We are the only company certified organic in Argentina.” Frutos de los Lagos currently has a production capacity of close to one million kilos of fresh cherries, most of which are destined for export. It has its own packaging plant, equipped with Unitec machinery, from where 2.5kg and 5kg boxes are packed, with the possibility of dividing into individual bags for those markets that require it, such as the US.