Hernan Garces ,general manager of Fresh Forever Asia in Shanghai

Launched in Shanghai this year ahead of what could be the the biggest season in recent history for Chilean cherries, Fresh Forever Asia (FFA) is a joint venture (JV) between Chilean cherry exporter San Francisco Lo Garces (SFLG), and Peruvian table grape exporter Verfrut. The pair behind the JV have enjoyed a long-term partnership developing the North American market over the past four years.

Combining SFLG’s strength in Chilean cherries, stonefruit and kiwifruit, and Verfrut’s strength in Peruvian grapes and apples, the pair successfully expanded their business in North America. As China rose to become a significant market for South American produce in recent years, the two partners are now looking to conquer the market together again.

“China’s market is vast. It expands from the wholesale market, which remains the most important for the trade, to conventional international retailers, local greengrocer chain stores and e-commerce,” says Hernan Garces, general manager of the new JV, “I have a lot to learn about China. We are here with an open mind and take things one step at a time, so we can make the right decisions in the future.”

With the recently established FFA as the in-market support, SFLG’s cherries were the first to arrive by air in China this season. An exclusive 2.5kg red plastic box package design was introduced with the holiday shoppers’ preference in mind.

As industry forecasts point to a 70 per cent crop increase for this Chilean cherry season, concerns have been raised over the post-harvest and warehouse capacity to handle such steep growth. But Garces says SFLG is well prepared for this.

“SFLG’s own forecast is 1,000 containers for the China market this season, and the industry total to China is around 7,000 containers,” says Garces. “We have been preparing ourselves for years now for a season like this. We invested heavily to boost our packing capacities. I don’t think there is any other company in the country that can match us in this regard, not if they focus on quality like we do.”

A full version of this story is published in the Asiafruit Magazine December/January 2018 issue, which is now available to subscribers, and will also be distributed at Fruit Logistica 2018 in Berlin.