May 03, 2024 #SustainableChile #Columns

Column : The Cherry: Chile's Pride

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By Claudia Soler, Executive Director of the Chilean Fruit Cherry Committee.

It is not unknown that cherries have become the "letter of introduction" of Chile and its products in the international markets, especially in China, where they are sought after for their quality, flavor, shape and color, which, in the context of the Chinese New Year, acquire a special symbolism to wish prosperity and good omens. A fact that has been highlighted by the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China in Chile when he pointed out that the Chilean cherry in China represents a miracle, a special gift from the Chilean people to the Chinese people. 

We Chileans are proud of our wines, our Andes Mountains and landscape, being a land of poets, having achieved Olympic gold in tennis and so many other things, but we forget about something as national and traditional as fruit, especially cherries, which have been a natural ambassador for Chile in the world and a gateway for other products in international markets. The development of this industry has been remarkable, especially in the last decade, where the implementation of state-of-the-art technology and more efficient and sustainable production processes have allowed Chile to become the main supplier of cherries in the world.

The growing export of cherries to China has boosted Chile's image in that country.

Isn't that something to be proud of? Of course it is, we are a small country and located in the southernmost part of the world, but in spite of everything we achieved this milestone, which also implies direct contributions to the fiscal coffers, as well as the generation of around 200 thousand direct jobs each season.

And if we talk about last season, once again, the industry demonstrated its maturity, its efforts and concern for delivering quality fruit to the markets, and especially to consumers. Although the beginning of the season was challenging due to the rains that affected pre-harvest, we are ending the season with good results, even better than expected. With an exceptional quality in most of the varieties and an effective management of volumes, reaching a similar figure to the previous season, reaching more than 400 thousand tons exported to the world (-0.3% compared to last season). China, our main destination, set a record with 3.3% more cherries received compared to the previous year.

Claudia Soler highlighted the technological and production innovations that Chile has made in the export of this fruit, which have allowed it to reach such positive figures..

As an industry, we are showing clear signs that the condition and quality of our fruit are issues that concern and occupy us in order to enhance the sustainable development of our sector in the future. The Chinese consumer demands the best quality and forces us to constantly strive to reach the market with the best product. 

Another key issue that accompanied us this season was logistics, which worked well, with minor delays of ships, marking milestones such as arriving for the first time with Cherry Express ships to the Port of Tianjing in China, and also arriving - for the first time - with a Cherry Express in India, with a record time of 36 days and one stopover. Both milestones make us happy because, on the one hand, we are diversifying the arrival of our cherry in China and promoting a more direct arrival to northern China, and to India, which is expected to become the third largest economy in the world by 2027. 

In the last season (2023-2024), world exports reached almost 690 thousand tons, of which 52% corresponded to Chile.

I cannot fail to mention another key factor in the success of our cherries, namely promotion, which has contributed to making our cherries known in the market and increasing their consumption. This season we launched a three-year promotional strategy, which will be our road map to face the increases in production and exports that are expected in the future, as well as to be more precise about our target segment and how we will work the different cities in China according to their degree of maturity, as well as the return required for each of the activities carried out. 

Finally, I believe it is important to emphasize that the success of our cherries, in addition to reflecting the efforts of our producers, exporters, product and service suppliers, as well as the various actors in the logistics chain, also responds to a joint effort between the private and public sectors, especially with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agriculture and Livestock Service, which has allowed us to address phytosanitary issues and market openings in a good way. It is also important to work with ProChile and Fundación Imagen de Chile, with whom we seek to promote Chilean fruits and the image of Chile as a supplier of high quality, safe and sustainable products. And with whom we hope to continue promoting Chilean fruits, especially cherries, as products that we should be proud of as Chileans.

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