February 15, 2024 #ChileSustentable

Chilean cherries on the run for the Chinese New Year

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Exporters apply sustainable practices to the crops, such as technified irrigation of cherry trees, energy generation through photovoltaic plants, and the use of advanced technologies to ensure their lushness on their long journey to Asia.

This year, exporters and shipping companies agreed for the fifth time on more direct routes with "Cherry Express" ships, which reduced the trip from 28 to 22 days. A direct route to the port of Tianjin was even inaugurated for better distribution in the north.

The Chilean cherry has become the protagonist of the Chinese New Year celebration. The holiday, which is celebrated on February 10, in the middle of winter in that country, counts on our cherries as a luxury gift for family and friends, as they are considered a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in the Asian country. The Chilean fruit is eagerly awaited by consumers, and there are even special sales through social networks.

To meet this enormous demand and the quality standards required by Chinese consumers, the Chilean industry has incorporated advanced technology and sustainable crop management through technified irrigation. Another expression of this innovation process is in the O'Higgins region in the Quilamuta estate, where renewable energies have been incorporated through the largest floating photovoltaic plant in South America on agricultural land. 

"What happens with cherries, and with fruit in general, is that it is a highly perishable product, and every minute of transportation time counts," explained Iván Marambio, president of Frutas de Chile. For this reason, the company is trying to reduce transport times by incorporating state-of-the-art technology. "In the packing plants, the processing lines are computerized and select the fruit according to size, color and whether or not it has defects," explained Claudia Soler, executive director of the Frutas de Chile cherry committee. In addition, the cherries are packed in atmosphere bags, which keep them fresh during the trip. Then, refrigerated containers are used in trucks and ships, specially created to transport perishable fruits that need a temperature at zero degrees.

Rodrigo Galleguillos, general manager of San Antonio Terminal Internacional (STI), explained that they expect to move "more than 8,300 refrigerated containers with cherries this season, with two to three express services per week". The trucks enter the terminal in less than 20 minutes and are quickly connected to electricity so as not to lose the cold chain. "The normal stay of an export container at the port is five days, but in the case of cherries it is reduced to two days on average," he added.

This year, exporters and shipping companies agreed for the fifth time on more direct routes with "Cherry Express" ships, which reduced the trip from 28 to 22 days. A direct route to the port of Tianjin was even inaugurated for better distribution in the north. According to figures from the Frutas de Chile association, up to the fourth week of 2024, Chile has shipped 368,490 tons of fresh cherries to the Asian market, a figure that is expected to be exceeded this year.

Nearly 90 percent of Chilean cherry production is exported to China, which last season meant the shipment of 83 million five-kilo boxes, equivalent to 415,398 tons, with a return of 2 billion dollars. Iván Marambio pointed out that "cherry is the product that has developed the most in the last fifteen years, therefore, it is the image of Chile. The industry's challenge now is to continue growing, but maintaining the same quality".

From Fundación Imagen de Chile, the executive director, Rossana Dresdner, said that "like the wine industry, cherry exporters have worked for years to position the origin of their products in international markets. This fruit is now recognized for its immense added value, which implies sustainable production and the incorporation of important technological advances.

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