Cherries have retained their mantle as China’s largest imported fruit by value, with Chile continuing to dominate the trade.
A recent USDA Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report valued China’s cherry import trade at US$1.3bn over the 2018/19 market year (12 months to 31 March 2019), with over 180,000 tonnes of the fruit shipped to the Asian nation over this time period.
Imports are expected to increase to 190,000 tonnes over the 2019/20 market year, according to the report.
With import volumes peaking around Chinese New Year celebrations, Southen Hemisphere suppliers account for a large percentage of overall sales.
Chile remains the single largest cherry supplier to China, with import volumes expected to rise over the next few years as cherry production in the Latin American nation continues to increase.
China Customs data cited in the USDA report put Chilean cherry shipments to China at 163,475 tonnes over the 2018 calendar year (12 months to 31 December 2018).
The China Customs data ranked the US second on the list of import origins over 2018 at 14,398 tonnes, ahead of Canada (5,482 tonnes), Australia (1,597 tonnes) and New Zealand (1,043 tonnes).
The report highlighted that import volume from the US fell sharply over the quoted 2018/19 market year, due to ongoing trade tensions between the two countries.
China’s domestic cherry production is forecast at 420,000 tonnes for the 2019/20 market year, up 23 per cent from 2018/19 due to an increased number of bearing trees.
In the absence of widespread post-harvest treatment, the USDA report concluded China exports a very limited volume of cherries to neighbouring countries such as Russia and Thailand.