Chile overtook Thailand to become the leading supplier of fresh fruit to China in 2016 according to data from Direcon-ProChile.
China imported US$1.207bn of Chilean fruit last year, an increase of 23 per cent on 2015. Overall, Chile now account for a 21 per cent share of the Chinese fruit market up from 7 per cent nine years ago.
Thailand was in second place with US$1.15bn, followed by Vietnam with US$635m.
Chile eclipsed other Southern Hemisphere suppliers such as New Zealand (US$33m), Australia (US$225m), Peru (US$175m) and South Africa (US$162m).
Cherries led the export charge for the fifth consecutive year, with shipments totalling US$648m, or 54 per cent of fruit exports by value. Grapes were in second place with sales of US$282m, followed by plums (US$79m) and blueberries (US$77m).
“Since the free trade agreement came into effect on 1 October 2006, our trade with China has been steadily increasing and in 2015 it became our biggest trading partner, a position that we maintained last year,” said Alejandro Buvinic, director of ProChile.
He also highlighted the 125 promotional activities that the association organised in China last year with had a strong focus on food.
“Conditions in China offer a tremendous window of opportunity, both in large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, as well as in emerging markets like Guangdong, Shandong, Henan and Sichuan, the country’s four most populous regions,” Buvinic continued.
Avocados were among the fastest growing product, with shipments totalling US$36m compared with US$7m in 2015.
“Chilean fruit stands out in the Chinese market,” said Buvinic, “98 per cent of imported blueberries for example are from Chile, as well as eight out of 10 imported cherries and plums”.
A total of 370 Chilean companies exported fruit to China last year compared with 68 firms in 2007.
Analysts predict that China will play an increasingly important role in global trade in the coming years if President Trump steps up US protectionism. Asked if this could have a negative impact on Chilean exports to the US, Buvinic noted that: “while it’s too early to know whether this will affect us this year, we are nevertheless prepared to face this contingency”.