California strawberries recently clinched access to China, ending a ten-year wait. This week, the California Strawberry Commission is celebrating the industry’s first shipment of fruit to China with an official launch event held in Beijing in conjunction with the China Fruit & Vegetable Trade Fair (FVF). Here, the California Strawberry Commission's vice-president of marketing, Chris Christian, talks exclusively to Asiafruit about the market access breakthrough, and the industry’s plans and expectations for the China market.
How long has the California industry been pursuing access to the China market for its strawberries? When did the Industry receive official notice that access had been granted?
Chris Christian: We have been seeking market access formally since 2006. The protocol for California (CA) exports to China was signed in late June, and approval for shipments received in August. The first shipment in support of the California Strawberry Commission’s activities at China Fruit & Vegetable Trade Fair (FVF) has arrived. Commercial shipments are expected to follow.
Is California the only source permitted to export to the Chinese mainland or are other US producing regions allowed?
CC: CA strawberries are the only imported strawberries permitted.
We understand there have been some initial shipments made during the current season. How did those go and approximately what volume was sent?
CC: The first shipment was to exhibit at China FVF and for the event, and the value was just under US$2,000. It is late season, so we expect more shipments after the beginning of the year.
When does the industry plan to commence shipping to China in 2017? What kind of volume is anticipated?
CC: In 2017 we expect shipments to begin in February. We have not projected a volume or value for 2017 exports, as the first year will be a time for establishing commerce. We expect China could within a few years grow to around the size of Japan as an export market for CA strawberries, equating to about US$30m in annual values.
Are shipments restricted to certain Chinese ports of entry? What are the general protocols required for California fruit to meet pre-shipment?
CC: The protocol for exports to China includes specific requirements to control specific pests in the fields, and specific ports of entry. It is not considered a public document, although a version may be found on the AQSIQ website.
What does the Chinese market prefer in a strawberry with respect to size, shape and colour. Is there a strong confectionary demand for strawberries such as in Japan?
CC: We are still completing and summarising consumer and market research to address these questions.
What are the CSC's promotional plans for the Chinese market during the 2017 season? Are you targeting the major metropolitan areas of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou only or will the CSC promote in secondary markets as well for the coming season?
CC: As we establish trade in 2017, our plan will be to focus on the three first-tier markets you mentioned, and expand to second-tier markets as imports and trade/consumer awareness builds. We will also identify key trade events for promotion.
Are there any comments you would like to add?
CC: We are very honoured and pleased to have been approved for market access following a ten-year period of cooperation with USDA-APHIS and AQSIQ. We are also very happy to announce the first official arrival of CA strawberries in China for the China FVF event.