Argentine and Chinese officials have signed the phytosanitary protocol clearing the way for Argentine table grapes into China.
The agreement was signed by Argentine agriculture minister Ricardo Buryaile and China’s AQSIQ minister Zhi Shuping during the visit by president Mauricio Macri to China this week ahead of SIAL China 2017 in which Argentina will be participating as country of honour.
The two countries also agreed a five-year working plan on agricultural cooperation and a two-year cooperation agreement on food safety, health and security that are expected to speed up access for other products including blueberries and cherries.
According to a USDA report, Chinese imports of table grapes are projected to rise by 20 per cent to 300,000 tonnes in 2016/17. Chile, Peru and the US are the top suppliers.
However, Argentine producers argue high transportation costs and quality issues effectively put the Chinese market out of reach for exporters.
San Juan-based grower Alejandro Toroga told Los Andes that whereas previously around 80 per cent of the company’s sales were in overseas markets such as Europe and Russia, the rise in transportation costs meant that “today we only sell grapes in Brazil and the domestic market”.
He added that the quality of Argentina’s grape offer falls short of what the Chinese market demands and would not survive the 45-day journey.
In order to compete effectively with Chile on quality and price, Toroga said: “If we want to reach demanding markets we have to have a major rethink on costs and logistics”.