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Source of durian’s stink identified

Source of durian’s stick identified


The mystery of what gives the prized but foul-smelling Asian fruit durian its characteristic odour has finally ended. Researchers at Munich Technical University discovered that a rare amino acid called ethionine is the cause of the stench. Previous studies had pointed to a chemical compound called ethanethiol, without explaining how it was being produced by the fruit. The new study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, finds that, as a durian ripens, its ethionine content increases, releasing the smell.

This finding is potentially crucial for our health. The researchers say that it is important to know how much ethionine is in a durian as this amino acid could present health risks. Previous research has suggested that consuming large amounts of ethionine might cause liver damage and cancer, although this finding is still tentative and more research needs to be done. It appears that a very large amount of durian would need to be consumed before experiencing adverse health effects.

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Tesco sells off south-east Asian operations 

Tesco sells off south-east Asian operations 


UK retailer Tesco is to pull out of south-east Asia, having agreed the sale of its operations to Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand for US$10.6 billion. This represents a major reversal of its strategy of international expansion. 

In a statement, Tesco’s chief executive, Dave Lewis, said: “Following inbound interest and a detailed strategic review of all options, we are announcing today the proposed sale of Tesco Thailand and Tesco Malaysia. This sale releases material value and allows us to further simplify and focus the business, as well as to return significant value to shareholders.” 

Tesco’s sale of its nearly 2,000 stores in Thailand and 74 in Malaysia constitutes the final stage of its exit strategy from Asia, having sold its South Korean HomePlus business in 2015. In February, Tesco announced its plans to sell its 20 per cent stake in Gain Land to China Resources, to end its activities in China.

Charoen Pokphand outbid two rival Sino-Thai conglomerates, Central Group and TCC Group. Central Group’s offer was just over US$9bn, according to people close to the deal, and TCC recently raised a $10 billion loan to finance its bid, according to Bloomberg. 


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New start for Harvest Season and garciaBallester in Asian citrus market

New start for Harvest Season and garciaBallester in Asian citrus market
Credit: Press release

An event held on 12th February in Palma del Río, Córdoba, makes official and consolidates the alliance between Harvest Season and garciaBallester. The two large companies, leaders in the business, are now united in achieving the same goal: to become leaders in the Asian citrus import market. garciaBallester’s own facilities were chosen as the ideal setting to seal the union between the two companies. 

Representatives and senior executives from both companies were present from the beginning, with garciaBallester represented by Jorge García (CEO), Jorge C. García, (management coordinator), Lucas (Asian export manager), Miguel Meliá, (GB Palma del Rio’s packhouse manager) and Stephane (sales director), and Harvest Season represented by Tony Zhang (general manager).

The event started with the reception of both parties in garciaBallester’s facilities, and later on they went out to the fields.  Once in the field, which was also in the middle of the orange season, the union between both companies was formalised. To do this, a customised pickaxe was used as a symbolic element to announce their commitment to a new era in the citrus market in Asia. Later, attendees were treated to a guided tour around garciaBallester’s facilities. 

The highlight of the event was the cutting of the opening ribbon, where Harvest Season and garciaBallester celebrated their new chapter together. They were able to share new ideas and also to answer questions from the invited press. The event demonstrated successfully how to start this new stage for Harvest Season and garciaBallester.

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31% increase in Chilean blueberries shipped to Asia this season

31% increase in Chilean blueberries shipped to Asia this season, credit. Alexandra Sautois, Eurofresh Distribution
© Alexandra Sautois, Eurofresh Distribution


Chile has recorded significant growth in its shipments of blueberries to the Far East, this season, with volumes up 31% from the previous campaign, according to data published by Asoex. The Asian market now accounts for 18% of the total export volume. North America has received 48% of the volumes of Chilean blueberries so far this season, 7% down on last season’s volumes. Europe has received 33% of shipments, with a growth of 3%.

Meanwhile, shipments of organic blueberries continue with the upward trend. During week 02, 1,457 tons were exported, accumulating to date 7,589 tons, 37% more than the previous season. North America continues to be the main destination with 73% of shipments, while Europe is second in importance, with 21% participation.

The total cumulative volume of fruit produced had reached 66,742 tons by Week 1 in the present campaign, practically the same level as at the same point in the 2018/19 campaign. However, despite the similarity in volume, harvest dynamics are very different. Early and mid-season varieties began the campaign earlier, which in some cases resulted in lower volumes due to shorter crops and lighter fruits. This has been offset by the increase in the volumes of later varieties from the central zone and the increase in surface area of ​​the southern zone, which explain part of the volume recorded during week 02. If weather conditions remain favourable, the increase in production area and the renewed varieties should yield 5,000 tons more than last season, reaching 115,000 tons projected for this campaign.

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Chinese take delivery of first Colombian avocados

Chinese take delivery of first Colombian avocados, Credit: Olle Svensson (Flickr)
Credit: Olle Svensson (Flickr)



The first Colombian avocados landed in China in the middle of December, following the signing of a protocol between the two countries. The first three companies to export Colombian avocado to the Chinese are Pacific Fruit, Westfalia Fruit Colombia and Avofruit. In an official statement, Agriculture Minister, Andrés Valencia, said, “China is an attractive market for the positioning of our non-traditional products such as Hass avocados, beef, pork, passionflower and shrimp, among others.” 

Colombia’s climate and geography allows it to supply avocado all year long. Colombia is starting to establish its avocados in Asian markets. This year, it began shipping to Japan and negotiations are currently underway to secure access to the South Korean market, too.

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Citrus losing primacy in global fruit trade

Citrus losing primacy in global fruit trade

As the fruit sector diversifies, citrus is coming to play a smaller role. While Spain dominates the citrus trade overall, African and South American countries are coming to play a greater role in certain regions.

Between 1980 and 2016, exported volumes of fresh fruit increased from 23 to 87.5 million tons (+193%). While the growth in total fruit exports (+280%) outstripped growth in production (155%), the opposite is the case when we look at the citrus category, where production increased by 139%, but exports only rose by 133%, from 6.9 to 16 million tons. The shrinking role that citrus has come to play in the global fruit trade is highlighted by the fact that its share of world fruit exports plummeted from 30% in 1980 to 18.5% in 2016.


Oranges and grapefruits
losing their shine

When we examine the breakdown of the world’s citrus trade, we find that oranges and grapefruits have seen their share drop, while soft citrus and lemons now play a larger role. While in 1980, orange exports accounted for 59% of all citrus exports, by 2016, their share had fallen to 43% (6.8 million tons). Over the same period, exports of grapefruit registered a fall in their category share from 12% to 7% (1.1 million tons in 2016). In contrast, soft fruits almost doubled their share of the category’s exports, rising from 15% to 31% (5 million tons in 2016). Similarly, lemons saw their share of citrus exports rise from 14% to 19% (3.1 million tons in 2016).


Spain dominates
citrus export markets

The world’s number-one citrus exporter remains Spain, but the picture has shifted somewhat over recent decades. Spain leads the way in exports of orange and soft citrus, and is second only to Mexico in lemon/lime exports. The Spaniards’ greatest rival is South Africa, with the major Southern Hemisphere player leading the way in grapefruit exports, ranking second in oranges, and fourth in soft citrus and lemon/limes. 


Leading orange exporters

In 2017, Spain, with 1.8 million tons, accounted for 27% of the world’s orange exports, well ahead of South Africa in second place, with 17% (1.2 million tons), followed by Egypt, with 10% (660,000 tons), Turkey, with 9% (621,000 tons), and the US, with 8% (570,000 tons), according to COMTRADE data. Spain dominates the world’s soft citrus category, too, accounting for 22% of all exports. Some way behind Spain lies China, in second place, with 10% (494,000 tons), followed by Turkey, with 9% (454,000 tons), South Africa, with 4% (201,000 tons) and Israel, with 2.6% (129,000 tons). 


Leading lemon/lime exporters

As for lemons and limes, in 2017, Mexico was the world’s largest exporter, with 24% of the market share (730,000 tons), followed closely behind by Spain (22%), with (690,000 tons), Turkey, with 15% (450,000 tons), and South Africa, with 9.5% (300,000 tons). The grapefruit segment sees South Africa out in front, with 20.5% of global exports (227,000 tons). The other major grapefruit producers are all in the Northern Hemisphere. Close behind South Africa comes China, with 17.5% (192,000 tons), followed some way back by Turkey, with 11.5% (127,000 tons) and the US, with 7.7% (85,000 tons).


The surge of
South American citrus

In recent times, South American producers have grown in prominence in the global citrus trade. Peru’s citrus exports have rocketed 380% in the last decade, while Chile’s are up 200%. Meanwhile, Egypt and Pakistan recorded 175% rises, and China and Turkey’s citrus exports have doubled. In volume terms, Turkey has seen the largest rise over the last ten years (+800,000 tons), followed by Spain, Egypt and China (+450,000 tons). 


Europeans prefer oranges,
Japanese prefer soft citrus

Demand for citrus varies greatly from region to region. The EU has the largest per capita consumption of oranges (8kg per year), while the Japanese consume less than 1kg per year on average, according to Freshfel data. However, in terms of soft citrus, the Russians (5.8kg) and the Japanese (5.2kg) lead the way, while Europeans consume just 4.6kg per capita. The North American consume the most lemons, with Canadians purchasing 2kg and US consumers 1.9kg of the fruit each year. As for grapefruit, Canadians once again lead the way alongside EU consumers (1.04 kg), with Russians consuming just 0.4kg of the fruit each year.


Russia is world’s number-one
citrus importer

EU countries import the largest volumes of citrus (including intra-EU trade), accounting for 45% of the world’s imported citrus volumes. However, the single country that imports the largest volumes of citrus is Russia (9.6%). While demand for citrus is growing worldwide, the picture is varied in different regions of the world. If we compare the 2005-07 average total citrus import volumes with the 2015-17 average, we find that the greatest proportionate increases have been recorded in Middle Africa (+1461%), Southern Asia (+372%), and Central Asia (+304%). In volume terms, over this ten-year period, demand for citrus has risen most in the EU (6.5 to 7.2 million tons, +10%), followed by Russia (1.0 to 1.5 million tons, +54%), North America (0.94 to 1.46 million tons, +55%) and Eastern Asia (0.86 to 1.1 million tons, +29%).


Chinese market dominated
by soft citrus

As the world’s largest citrus market (34 million tons), it is worth examining trade data for China. The Asia giant produces 34.1 million tons of citrus for the fresh market, of which soft citrus represents 62%, oranges comprise 21%, grapefruits account for 13%, and lemons constitute 4%. China is a net exporter of citrus (933,000 tons shipped abroad in 2017), with the main destination markets being Vietnam (17.6%), Russia (16.4%), Thailand (14.8%), the EU (11.8%) and Malaysia (10.6%). China’s imports of fresh citrus have steadily increased over the past ten years, from 560,000 tons, in 2008, to over 1 million tons in 2016. The main overseas source of citrus for the Chinese market is South Africa (35.9%), followed at some distance by the US (19.7%), Egypt (17.4%) and Australia (14.7%).


EU looks to South Africa
for citrus imports

Turning to the EU citrus market, the Europeans consume 11 million tons of citrus. Oranges account for 57% of the total (6.2 million tons), soft citrus represent 28%, lemons constitute 11%, followed by grapefruit (3%), and lime (1%). While citrus imports from outside the EU have fluctuated over the past ten years, largely in line with variations in European crops, they have tended to remain between 2 and 2.4 million tons per year. The major source of non-EU citrus is South Africa (653,000 tons), followed by Egypt (331,000 tons), Argentina (221,000 tons), Morocco (204,000 tons) and Turkey (186,000 tons). The share of non-EU imports represented by lemons (17%), grapefruit (14%) and limes (6%) is greater than their share of intra-EU trade, while the reverse is the case for oranges (42%) and soft citrus (21%).


Russia and the Gulf record
rises in citrus imports

Russia’s fresh citrus market consisted of 3.9 million tons of fruit in 2017. The category is divided between oranges (37%), satsumas (30%), lemons (14%), clementines (12%) and grapefruit (7%). The country’s citrus imports climbed steadily between 2004 and 2013 (from 0.82 to 1.68 million tons), before falling off slightly. The major supplier of citrus to the Russian market is Turkey (38%), followed by Egypt (16%), Morocco (15%), South Africa (9%) and China (8%).

Taking the Gulf market as a whole, citrus consumption climbed steadily between 2012 and 2016 (from 1.6 million tons to 1.9 million tons), before dropping off slightly in 2017 (1.68 million tons). The main suppliers of fresh citrus to the Gulf in 2017 were Egypt (525,000 tons), South Africa (430,000 tons), Turkey (120,000 tons), Pakistan (110,000 tons), Lebanon (47,000 tons) and Spain (43,000 tons).

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Tesco to offload Asian operations?

Tesco to offload Asian operations?

Reports have emerged that leading UK retailer, Tesco, is considering selling its Asian business, Lotus, for £7.2bn. According to The Independent, Tesco has received “inbound interest” for its Lotus brand which operates over 2,000 stores and employs 60,000 people in Thailand and Malaysia. The news comes as somewhat of a shock given that Tesco has experienced sustained success in the Asian markets. However, while Lotus generated 20% of the group’s profits last year, it has faced several challenges. Nevertheless, it would undoubtedly be considered a trophy asset by a number of major investors. Financial markets responded positively to the news of the potential sale, and led to a 4% jump in Tesco’s shares. The retailer is reported to be reviewing the situation but “no decisions concerning the future of Tesco Thailand or Malaysia have been taken”.

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US targets China’s neighbours

US targets China’s neighbours


In light of the ongoing trade war with China, the US is exploring openings in other Asian markets. As part of this strategy, the US Department of Agriculture sent delegates from fresh produce organisations to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) from 15 to 18 October to meet counterparts from Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. Delegates include representative of the Almond Board of California, California Blueberry Commission, Oregon Berry Packing and Coconut King Miami Beach.

Ted McKinney, under-secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, said, “The size of this trade mission delegation speaks to the phenomenal potential that exists for US exporters in Vietnam and surrounding countries. Since the United States normalised relations with Vietnam in 1995, our agricultural exports have grown exponentially, reaching a record US$4bn last year. Sales of US food and farm products to Thailand and Myanmar also set records in 2018, topping US$2.1bn and US$126m, respectively.”

TAGS: US, Vietnam, Asia, trade delegation

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Aurora Fresh, seeks to export mango to Asia in 2019

Aurora Fresh begins a year of many challenges, with a special focus on Asia. Already present in markets such as Europe, which accounts for almost half of its exports, as well as in the US and Canada, the firm’s goal is to export mango to Japan in 2019. “This is a very demanding market, but we can comply with the required quality levels,” said Armando Figueroa, operations manager at the third-generation family business of Mexican avocado and mango producers. “We are very close to the US, so there is a lot of competition to get to that market, which is why we are seeking alternative destinations. We have been growing gradually, experimenting and expanding. Eventually, we want to get to China, but the limitation is that our country still has no commercial treaty to export mango to that market.” With a commercial window that runs from February to August, and 800 hectares of fruit production, in the last campaign, Aurora Fresh produced 80,000 boxes of mango of the Ataulfo, Kent, Tommy and Haden varieties, and organic and conventional avocado, available all year round. As an added value, Figueroa said, “We have great synergy with the producers. We always try to support them as much as possible by offering good advice.” The Aurora Fresh brand is being patented this year to establish it in the international markets.

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Chile’s fruit exports rise 1.2%

Chile’s fruit exports rise 1.2%

Chilean fruit exports for 2018-2019 amounted to 1.54 million tons – an increase of 1.2%, according to data from ASOEX as of March 28. Shipments to Asia rose 12% to 454,000 tons, and the continent now accounts for 29.5% of total Chilean fruit exports. China is the main destination, with 351,200 tons, up 11%, followed by South Korea, with 47,600 tons, up 34%, and India, with 20,100 tons, up 18.6%.


The main fruits exported to Asia are cherries (166,300 tons), followed by table grapes (131,100 tons), fresh plums (76,800 tons, +78%), apples (25,500 tons, +28.1%), nectarines (23,300 tons, +13.6%), and avocados (13,800 tons, +9%).