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Chilean Walnuts vs Californian Walnuts – Price & Quality Matter

August 20, 2016

In the recent China International Tree Nuts Conference in Guangzhou, representatives from Chilean Walnut Commission and Chilean walnut producers were very upbeat. They looked forward to open up the China market and even enter into direct competition with Californian walnuts in China.

Major Exporting Country

Chile is the largest walnut exporting country in the Southern Hemisphere, and the third largest walnut exporting country in the world. Ten years ago, Chandler walnuts were brought into Chile from California. Now, this variant accounts for more than 70% of walnuts produced in Chile.

Established in 2009, Chilean Walnut Commission has 17 corporate members who are all exporters. Most of these companies grow or process their walnuts. The Commission helps these companies develop their markets, identify business opportunities and manage government relationship.

The middle part of Chile, such as Santiago, is the main production area for walnuts. This area’s Mediterranean climate is good for walnuts’ growth. Chilean walnuts are bright in color and almost free of bitter taste. They have long shelf-life and can be kept for about a year”, said Andres Rodriguez, Executive Director of Chilean Walnut Commission.

In 2014, Chilean in-shell walnuts were first permitted to export to China. Walnut kernels received the permit to export to China in 2016. In addition, Chilean walnuts enjoy China’s favorable treatment of zero import duty, and hence huge marketing advantage.

" More importantly, Chile’s season is the reverse of China. Walnut season in China is between September and December. Chile’s Chandler ripens in April. At that time, Chinese walnuts are not yet ripe. Chilean walnuts can supplement the supply in the China market,” said Andres Rodriguez. “China is the world’s largest producer of walnuts, and is also the largest importing country for walnuts – China imports 100,000 tons annually, even more than Chile’s annual production (65,000 tons in 2016).”

Competing Head-on with California Walnuts

Also attending the Conference is the exporter Growex. Growex exports both in-shell walnuts and walnut kernels. Growex’s walnut kernels are shelled by hand and are aiming at the high-end market. Growex is preparing for China market entry.

“China is the world’s largest consumer market, there is a Chinese for every seven persons on earth. According to the free trade treaty between China and Chile, Chilean walnuts enjoy zero duty import. Now is the best time for Chilean walnut exporters to enter China,” said Mr. Juan Esteban Rodriquez, General Manager of Growex.

He hoped to see Chilean walnuts compete with California walnuts and said, “In Turkey, importers will wait for Chilean walnuts to ripe because they know the difference between Chilean and Californian walnuts. Even if Chilean ones are more expensive, they are willing to pay the higher price because Chilean walnuts have better quality. For walnuts of the same size, Chilean ones have 2% to 3% more kernels than ones from California. That Chilean walnuts are shelled by hand is also an advantage.”

Currently, there are more than 2000 walnut growers in Chile, having total plantation area of 40,000 hectares that is increasing by 2500 hectares every year. Production volume is also increasing by 15-20% annually.



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