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Chileans stand by Chinese partners during coronavirus outbreak

© Alexandra Sautois

 

Chilean Fruit Exports Association (Asoex) has offered support to China by offering to donate fresh fruits to the medical staff working to treat people affected by coronavirus. Containers filled with fresh Chilean produce sent to different ports across China had been held back due to the outbreak. With Chinese consumers turning to online markets to buy fresh produce, overall consumption has reduced. Shipping companies have been working to keep the containers in the market so as to increase availability of refrigerated storage.

In a statement issued by the organisation, Asoex president, Ronald Bown Fernandez, said: “It is complex, it requires constant monitoring as to how it evolves. We are relying on Chinese authorities to contain the virus, with the aim of returning to normalcy in the shortest period of time possible.” It’s unknown how long the current situation in China will last, with Asoex announcing it will work with the government to minimise the negative effectives by implementing a “specific campaign to promote the healthy attributes of fruit consumption”.

Around 265,000 tons of Chilean produce have been exported so far this season, with the main products being cherries, blueberries, table grapes, avocados, nectarines, plums, apples, and kiwifruit. This figure is up 27.7% from the same period last year.

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Chilean fruit exports to China decimated

Even though fruit is a significant snack globally, and even vegetables are popular in the Asia-Pacific region (57%), cheese is the most eaten snack in Europe (58%), bread/sandwiches in the Middle East (47%), ice cream in Latin America (63%) and potato/tortilla crisps in the US (63%).

 

Chile’s fruit exporters association (ASOEX) has estimated the losses to the country’s exports to China at close to US$100 million. This news was announced at the second meeting of the public-private table where the effects of the coronavirus on Chilean exports to China were analysed. The meeting included chaired the Minister of Foreign Relations, Rodrigo Yañez and the President of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG (ASOEX), Ronald Bown Fernández.

“After the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations, there were expectations of a revival in trade. However, on Monday, February 10, only 68 containers of cherries were sold. While in total, during the first 48 hours of operations in the wholesale markets in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing and others, only 249 containers of the existing fruit stock in the chain were sold, estimated at 1,500 containers of cherries,” said the President of ASOEX. He added: “The first sales prices have been lower than expected, also in relation to the values ​​reached before the Chinese New Year. We believe that if the current trend were maintained, lower revenues could be projected for the cherry export sector of between US$70 and 80 million. But if we add other fruit species to this, we could reach losses of about US$100 million. However, this could vary depending on how the situation develops. So, we are constantly evaluating the market and conversing with our representatives in China.”

There is also concern about the fruit in transit to China, estimated at 1,600 containers, whose expected arrival dates are between now and March 15. These shipments contain about 59 containers of blueberries, 173 containers of cherries, 872 containers of plums, 387 containers of nectarines, 30 containers of avocados and 134 containers of table grapes. 

The Chilean fruit export industry has adapted its export promotion strategy in China, which includes facilitating the consumption of the basket of fruits exported by Chile, including cherries, blueberries, peas and table grapes, to highlight their nutritional benefits. The consumption of fruits will be promoted via online media and in retail chains and the sector will continue to donate fresh fruit to clinics and health centres. The first delivery will consist of 1,000 1.5 kg boxes of blueberries, donated to the lung hospital of Shanghai.