This year’s US harvest was a little delayed compared to other years. In order to receive accurate crops predictions, a week more might be needed, but growers now expect a light crop in June, with the peak in July and August.
Roger, Liu Bao Jun, is working with the US Cherry Committee and the Washington Apple Committee in China.
Is China an important market for US cherries? According to Roger, Yes: "China is the biggest overseas market for US cherries, that is it was in the years before Covid-19. Even a bigger market than Canada. But in recent years volumes to Vietnam, Thailand and Korea have been growing. China is still an important market for many countries. It has a huge population and a growing middle class with rising purchasing power and a focus on health and freshness.”
Roger continues: “We see that customers’ prefer imported fruits, which they relate to as safer and healthier. There are more domestic cherries on the market, but there is still a big gap in quality when comparing domestic to imported cherries. China produces different kind of cherry varieties; some of them are not easy to store and cannot withstand long-distance travel. Chinese consumers prefer big, crunchy varieties. Domestic cherries are smaller and sourer. Yet most importantly, their shelf-life is short, which causes problems for trade and retailers. There are some better varieties entering the market, but volumes are still very small.”
The US cherry crop will enter the market in June, with large volumes arriving in July and August. Promotional activities in retailer stores are planned for the months June and July.
Guangzhou and Shanghai are the two Chinese ports that receive most of the exports of US Cherries. This year, because of the current Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai, it is unclear how shipments will be received. However, there is strong interests from the market in the new cherry crop, according to Roger: “We have been contacting our importers and partners of the last few years. All expressed interests and will continue their imports this year. What we do not know yet are the volumes. Customs clearance processes are very important for the quality of the fresh cherries. Therefore, some importers are waiting a few more weeks to see if the situation at the port has been cleared. An alternative could be the shipment of smaller volumes by air. This would be more flexible and less risky, yet more expensive. It is hard to be specific under current circumstances; the market can look very different in July.”
There have been shipments arriving at the port of Guangzhou that were transferred overland by truck to Shanghai.
The US Cherry Committee has activity plans in line with previous years. This includes active promotion in partnering retail stores including in Walmart, Sam’s Club, Hema and RTMart, fruit chain stores including Pagoda and XianFeng, and online retailers including TMall and JD.com. Roger explains: “Every year we will host these activities. We are also looking to partnering with a sports star in China to do promotions with the focus on healthy and delicious food for the body.”
Packaging trends are leaning towards smaller size packages
Roger continues: “For packaging, this year we will see some smaller packaging options like we saw in the Chilean cherry campaign. I expect around 30% of the crop to be packed in smaller packages, and 70% in traditional 10kg boxes, of which some might be repacked in China. Most of our clients repack, for which they have professional facilities, storage and trained employees.”
Roger concludes: “I am optimistic about the season, but logistics are a problem and will remain to be so in the foreseeable future, sadly. We will have to wait and see until July. Hopefully, in two months the situation will have improved. Now Shanghai markets are open, but staff working on the premises cannot leave the market. Trucks come and go and drivers cannot get out of the car or truck. Fruits are loaded and unloaded by professional staff. We have staff in the market, and there are still fruits coming and leaving the market, but not every company has people in the wholesale market and the process is more complex.
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