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Californian Strawberries to Soon Arrive in China

August 18, 2016

On August 12th, AQSIQ released the list of registered cold storage facilities available to Californian strawberry exports to China. A new door for Californian strawberry exports has now been opened in China. Produce Report got the chance to interview Chris Christian, Senior Vice President of the California Strawberry Commission, in order to gain perspective on these new developments.

In remarks to Produce Report, Mr. Christian mentioned that the first shipment to China could now happen at any time. The China market presents great opportunity for Californian strawberries; Chinese consumers have shown great interest in imported fruits, and Californian strawberries are in peak season during the domestic offseason when Chinese strawberries are unavailable.

The major production areas for Californian strawberries are Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Watsonville/Salinas, with the latter being also the largest, comprised 49.4% of proprietary varieties. Overall, proprietary varieties represent 43.0% of California’s acreage and 56.8% of its organic acreage, with main varieties grown in the state including Monterey, San Andreas, Portola, and Albion.

On average, California exports 13% to 15% of all strawberries grown, with Canada being the largest market for its strawberry exports. The opening of the Chinese market to Californian strawberries represents a valuable opportunity to expand exports during strawberry’s summer peak production season, Mr. Christian noted to Produce Report.

Regarding the Chinese market, Mr. Christian believes that building awareness among trade and consumers as to the high quality and safety standards of Californian strawberries remains a significant challenge. However, he has confidence in the market and looks forward to the start of educational and promotional activities in the near future.

According to a previous release, China temporarily opened its borders to Californian strawberries in August 2008, granting special access specifically for the Olympic Games in Beijing, at athlete requests. Then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the Chinese government for providing access to healthy eating options, such as Californian strawberries, to the world’s greatest athletes.

Since then, USDA and AQSIQ officials have worked with California strawberry growers and shippers to establish export protocols to assure the quality and safety of California-grown strawberries sent to Chinese consumers.

In 2016, California strawberry acreage totaled 32,515 acres, according to California Strawberry Commission data. The Commission remains quite optimistic about the potential of the Chinese market for Californian strawberries, and estimates this market to grow to over $30 million in value over time.

Image source: California Strawberry Commission

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