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China’s soaring demand for fruit benefits foreign fruit farmers

(People's Daily Online)    17:52, March 22, 2019

The growing size of China’s middle class is generating an increasing demand for imported fruits such as cherries, avocados, and durian, bringing profit to foreign fruit farmers, WeChat account WednesdayNews reported on March 20.

Chinese tourists who go to Malaysia to eat the durians. (Photo/Chinanews.com)

The volume of avocados being imported has grown by nearly ten thousand times in just a few years in China, while pricey imported cherries are jokingly regarded as a new criterion for a person’s financial status by Chinese netizens. Moreover, some Chinese people are even flying to Thailand or Malaysia to get a bite of the local durian.

Most of China’s imported cherries are from Chile. In 2018, the volume of cherries imported from Chile accounted for 90 percent of the total imported to China, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.

The popularity of Chilean cherries in China is attributed mainly to their ripening time, which is between November and January, right when China is celebrating its most important festival-the Spring Festival, in a season that lacks domestic fruits.

Bilateral trade relations between China and Chile have also contributed a lot to the rise of Chilean cherries in China, as in 2017, the two countries signed an upgraded version of the free trade agreement, realizing a zero-tariff policy on 97 percent of products traded between the two nations, cherries being one such product.

According to a report by The Economist, because of China’s increasing demand for imported cherries, Chilean company San Francisco Lo Garces has become the world’s largest cherries producer, seeing its output grow by 25 times in 15 years.

As the profit of growing cherries is several times higher than that of other fruits, many Chilean fruit farmers who were previously planting other fruits have turned to cherries, as they believe that China’s soaring demand will continue to expand Chilean cherry exports.

In the first week of the export season of 2018-2019, Chilean cherry exports to the Far East market (mainly China) rose 17 percent year-on-year, according to a report by the Chilean Cherries Committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association.

Besides cherries, imported avocados have witnessed tremendous growth in the Chinese market over recent years.

In 2010, China imported 2 tonnes of avocados, while in 2017, the volume had risen to over 30,000 tonnes.

Such dramatic growth is driven by China's emerging middle class, who are keen on healthy food and have become enthusiastic consumers of avocados, according to foreign media.

Statistics from the Mexican Ministry of Economy showed that the country had exported about $25.55 million worth of avocados to China in 2017, making China its eighth largest export destination of avocados.

The demand in China has been growing at a remarkable speed, noted Ramon Paz, counselor of the Avocados Producer and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM), disclosing that most of the demand comes from consumers in big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

Chinese millennials who travel overseas are contributing to the increase too, said Ramon Paz.

Durian has also seen increasing popularity in China. On April 17, 2018, after the golden pillow durians of Thailand were released on Alibaba’s online grocery platform Tmall Supermarket, 80,000 durians were sold within one minute, weighing 200,000 kilograms in total.

In 2017, Nanning, capital of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, held a festival for Malaysian durian, which attracted about 165,000 people, who waited in long queues to taste the finest Malaysian durian.

Malaysian Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that in China, people would now wait in lines for two things: an iPhoneX mobile phone, and Malaysian durian.

Durian expert Lindsay Gasik told American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in an interview that she has witnessed the influence of China’s demand for durian.

“Several of the durian farms I used to buy from now supply only to China,” said Gasik, disclosing that when she first got into durian in 2012, the durian ‘bubble’ had just burst and people were telling her there was no money in durian. She added that at that time, many people replaced their durian trees with palms, while now people are cutting down palm trees and replanting durians. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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