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Chilean Stone Fruit Exports to China Sustain Strong Momentum

April 10, 2023

In early spring, fresh nectarines and plums from Chile are hot items at fruit wholesale markets throughout China. These two types of fruit have both seen remarkable growth on the Chinese market in recent years. On March 29, Freya Huang, marketing coordinator of the Chilean Stone Fruit Committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX), delivered a WeChat lecture to over 1,000 listeners of Produce Report, sharing the latest sales performance of Chilean nectarines and plums in China and discussing the development of the Chilean stone fruit industry.

Chile has a long history of fruit cultivation and export. In 1980, the country’s annual fruit exports stood at only 261,000 metric tons. This figure has now grown by tenfold to 2.7 million metric tons. At present, Chile exports more than 30 types of fruit to over 100 countries and regions worldwide and cooperates with over 1,700 fruit importers and dealers globally.

As a narrow country stretching along South America’s western coast, Chile spans multiple climate zones from north to south, making it an ideal place for cultivating a diverse variety of fruit. Moreover, Chile’s location in the Southern Hemisphere allows it to supply counter-seasonal fruit to China at a time when domestic production is at its lowest.

Chile’s range of climates provide a perfect match for stone fruit production, and the resulting high fruit quality has enabled Chilean nectarines, plums and sugar plums to enjoy good market shares in China. Chile produces a number of nectarine varieties with an export window lasting from December to March. Meanwhile, Chilean plums boast a juicy flesh and small kernels, with exports starting in mid-November and lasting through April.

Sugar plums, which are highly favored by Chinese consumers, have been cultivated in Chile for over 70 years. Chile is now the world’s largest supplier of this fruit, with a planting area exceeding 15,000 hectares nationwide. Chilean sugar plums are known for their thin skin, thick and juicy flesh, and sweet and refreshing taste. Owing to these appealing features, the fruit rapidly gained ground in China soon after entering the country.

Since 2016, Chilean stone fruits have basically maintained an upward trend in their exports to China, with only a slight decline in the 2020/21 season due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2021/22 season, however, exports rebounded quickly, with the three major items — nectarines, plums and sugar plums — reaching a combined export volume of 135,119 metric tons, representing a 3.5-fold increase compared with five years prior.

China has now become the largest overseas market for fresh Chilean stone fruits, far exceeding the second-largest market of the United States. As of week 10 of 2023, the total export volume of fresh Chilean nectarines, plums and sugar plums to China remained essentially unchanged from the same period of last year, with volumes to China accounting for 49%, 41% and 99% of the respective exports of these three items during the period.

Each year, the Chilean Stone Fruit Committee develops different promotional themes based on the key features of fruits and their target consumer groups. For example, sugar plums are targeted at health-conscious consumers, while nectarines are aimed at sports enthusiasts.

This season, the Chilean stone fruit industry is working with three major e-commerce platforms — JD.com, Tmall and Ele.me, through which consumers will be able to get discounts and subsidies when they purchase Chilean stone fruits. With respect to offline sales, giant retailers including Sam’s Club, Walmart, Costco and Freshippo (also known as Hema Fresh) will launch over 1,200 promotions in 43 stores. In fruit specialty chain shops such as Pagoda and Greenery Fruit, Chilean stone fruits will be marketed as key items and displayed in prominent positions in stores.

Chilean stone fruits have a broad supply window that lasts from late winter through the entire spring. As the products have been gaining strong momentum on the Chinese market, exports to China are also expected to witness further growth in the years to come.

Images: Chilean Stone Fruit Committee

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