Pino Calacagni

Pino Calacagni

Freshfel has led a trade delegation to China in a bid to open the market up to European exporters of fruit and vegetables.

The European fresh produce industry trade body led a delegation from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, France and Belgium to call upon Chinese authorities to allow imports under justified and workable conditions

During the trip to Bejing, the Freshfel delegation met with the European affairs division of the Chinese ministry of agriculture, as well as with the department for supervision on animal and plant quarantine of AQSIQ, China’s general administration of quality supervision, inspection and quarantine.

The rapid growth of China’s economy - by more than 10 per cent a year since 1980 - makes it the world’s most promising emerging consumer market.

According to Pino Calcagni, head of the Freshfel delegation and Freshfel vice-president, “opportunities to market high-quality European fruits and vegetables in China abound. Strong income growth and rapid urbanisation are diversifying the traditional Chinese diet and creating demands for high-value food products, including imported fruits and vegetables”.

In spite of the enormous potential of the Chinese market, European exports of fresh fruits and vegetables to the country remain negligible at less than 1,500 tonnes.

Freshfel has repeatedly criticised the Chinese authorities for their application of overly stringent phytosanitary import requirements, which make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for European exporters to export fruits and vegetables to China.

Meanwhile, China has rapidly developed its exports of fruits and vegetables to the EU. In 2004, the EU registered a trade deficit with China of €79 million in fruits and vegetables, illustrating the lack of reciprocal market access conditions for European fruits and vegetables exported to China.

The importation of fruits and vegetables into China is conditional upon the conclusion of a bilateral protocol establishing specific phytosanitary requirements between the country of origin and China.

On its trip to Beijing, the Freshfel delegation urged the Chinese authorities to facilitate the conclusion of import protocols for European fruits and vegetables, and establish phytosanitary entry requirements based upon common scientific knowledge and international standards.

Calcagni stated: “China must comply with its obligations as a WTO member. These include adherence to the principles of transparency, equivalence and non-discrimination of the SPS Agreement.”

In conclusion, Freshfel called upon the Chinese authorities to continue to co-operate with European phytosanitary authorities and exporters with a view to promoting two-way trade in fruits and vegetables between the two regions.

“We believe that Chinese consumers should be given the opportunity to savour and enjoy the excellent taste and quality of European fruits and vegetables, just like consumers in Europe already have the possibility to enjoy the Chinese fruits and vegetables exported to our countries,” Calcagni added.