Leading players from Catalonia’s stonefruit industry discussed gathered in Lleida this week for a meeting to explore the potential of the newly opened Chinese market following the signing of the import protocol in April.
Delegates at the event – organised by Catalan fruit association Afrucat and Siete Agromarketing – heard how the preference among middle class Chinese consumers for imported fruits and vegetables, which are perceived as safer than domestically-grown produce, creates an opportunity to develop a loyal market of some 200m consumers.
One of the main conclusions drawn was the potential advantages of developing a quality mark to help differentiate the region’s offer from that of its competitors. Citing the success of Chilean cherries in China, Valentín Turégano of Tecnidex told delegates that Catalonia could position itself as a premium supplier on the Chinese market by creating a Protected Geographical Indicator, Protected Denomination of Origin or some other quality mark to set it apart from the competition.
This view that the industry should approach the market in a united and coordinated manner was shared by practically all of the speakers including Afrucat’s managing director Manel Simón. “Our stonefruit offer needs to be bigger, better, more intensely flavoured and more durable than Chinese production,” he said. “It won’t be easy to achieve, but this represents a unique opportunity for the sector to unite under a single quality mark.”
Joan Solanes of the Sino-Spanish Trade Agency suggested that ‘Peaches from Spain’ could be an option.
Josep Presseguer of Fruits de Ponent said a collaborative approach should extend to all areas including research and development. “It’s important for the industry to pool its intelligence in order to exporter more and better,” he noted.
Technology, logistics and finance were other key topics discussed at the event. Rui Correia of Syngenta pointed out that the fruit would have to have a postharvest shelf-life of up to two months in order to reach the market and still be commercially viable.
Lluis Paris, commercial manager at the Port of Barcelona, said that 21 per cent of the 400,000 refrigerated containers departing from the port every year are destined for China. “It is essential that we are aware at all times of what is happening in the market to ensure that cargo arrives in peak condition.”
The meeting also heard from Valentín Almansa, head of food safety at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, who said the government had received written assurances from Russia that rail cargo would not face obstruction.