Although “Fruit Freedom” has become a hot topic, the Chinese people are still reluctant to compromise on eating fruit, even they say that they can’t afford to buy fruit because of its astonishing price. Although the fruit in China is expensive, people are still willing to pay for it to satisfy their appetite. People not only like to eat domestic fruits, but also favor imported fruits, especially cherries, durians and bananas. The data shows that these fruits are ranked top three in terms of fruit imports in 2018.
Last year, China imported 186,000 tons of cherries that worth 1.31 billion US dollars, up 83% and 69% respectively from 2017. The “2019 Fresh Food Consumption Report" released earlier this year by Missfresh showed that Chilean cherry has became a “hot cake” during the Chinese Spring Festival. Its sales jumped 32 times from a year earlier. In addition to Chile, China now also imports cherries from the United States, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia and so on.
Although many countries and regions produce cherries, the United States and Chile seem to have more varieties than other producers. For example, both US and Chile produce Brooks cherry, Bing cherry and Rainier cherry. Brooks cherry which has a round heart shape is juicy and succulent with sweet aftertaste like blackberries. Bing cherry is big, heart-shaped and full in sweet juice with crisp and hard flesh. Rainier cherry has a special skin which is covered by a blend color of light yellow and a little bit red. It is big in size and tastes sweet with unique aroma. In addition to the American and Chilean cherries, Turkey's “0900 Ziraat” variety is also very well-known. It is the most widely planted variety in Turkey, accounting for 70% of the production of Turkish sweet cherries. “0900 Ziraat” is also heart-shaped and has a strong taste and rich juice.
Besides, durian is also a favorite of fruit lovers. In 2018, the amount of durians imported from Thailand in China exceeded 7.1 billion yuan, totaling more than 430,000 tons. In the first four months of this year, China imported more than 200,000 tons of fresh durian, with a total value of more than 3.5 billion yuan!
In China market, the war of the imported durians is known as the “battle between Thailand and Malaysia”. The durians from Thailand and Malaysia occupy the majority of the durian market in China. In addition, a new competitor has joined. The Vietnamese frozen durian is now approved for import. As the Chinese fruit market expands to the outside world, the battle for imported durians will become more intense.
At present, the common imported durian varieties in China include Thai Monthong, Chanee and Malaysian Sultan King and Musang King. Different durians have their own flavors, tastes and aromas. Monthong is large in size, rich in flesh, small in core. It has an affordable price and moderate aroma, so it’s popular among the public. Chanee’s aroma is stronger than Monthong. Its flesh is more delicate. However, Chanee’s flavors vary from areas to areas. For example, Chanee with milk aroma is very common, but it may also give out the aroma of flowers or chocolate. Besides, when it becomes mature, it will produce special bitterness. Sultan King is a high-yield durian that once dominated Malaysia. It has light yellow flesh and layered taste. The first bite is bitter and then becomes sweet. Its aroma is lighter and approchable. Musang King tastes smooth, warm and thick as if it was melted in the mouth with the mixture of bitterness and sweetness. Nevertheless, Musang King durians in Chinese market are all frozen by liquid nitrogen, which makes the bitterness become lighter and the sweetness become stronger.
Besides cherries and durians, the third-ranked banana has always been a favorite of Chinese people. The domestic market is now more keen on imported bananas than in the past. According to this year’s statistics from China Customs in May, the total amount of banana imports was 227,200 tons and the total import value was 874 million yuan, increasing 31.8% and 39.8% respectively over the same period of last year. The monthly import volume reached a new high of recent six years. Last year, China surpassed Japan and became the largest proportion of the Philippine bananas exports, importing more than 65% of the Philippines' banana. In addition to the Philippines, China not only imports bananas from Taiwan, Thailand, Laos, Panama, Costa Rica and other countries but also gradually increase procurement from other banana-growing countries such as Mexico and Cambodia.
Though cherries, durians and bananas rank among the top three in terms of imports, the market potential of mangoes and coconuts can not be underestimated. According to China Customs’ data, in the first five months of this year, the total import of the “Fresh or Dried Mango”(specific description from China Customs) was 4,724.64 tons, an considerable increase of 69% year-on-year. Thailand, China Taiwan, and Peru rank the top three in terms of the amount and value of imports. Among them, the import volumes of Thailand and China Taiwan grow rapidly with several times increase when compared with the same period of last year. On the other hand, the total amount of imports of “coconut without inner shell (endocarp)” and “other coconuts” (specific descriptions from China Customs) in the first five months of this year was 260,000 tons, a year-on-year growth of 73% which was surprising.
According to the statistics of fruit import volume and import value in 2018, the top five exporters to China are Chile, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and New Zealand. Among them, Chile, the top exporter, and Thailand, the second, accounted for 24.23% and 23.93% of China's total fruit imports respectively, with a mere difference of 0.3%. In terms of the export volumes, Vietnam(25.32%) and the Philippines(23.92%) are far ahead of the last three countries--Thailand (15.8%), Chile (8%) and Ecuador (less than 5%).
As China opens up to imported fruits, the competition in the imported fruit market will become more intense, and the situation will become more complicated and unpredictable. But what is for sure is that more and more imported fruits will be approchable to ordinary people.