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Chilean cherries covets new market opportunities in China, more exports planned

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-12-07 14:07

SANTIAGO - Chilean Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche on Tuesday highlighted China as the leading market for Chile's cherry exports, as the South American country's cherry importers are working on expanding the exports of the fruit.

Nearly half of Chile's total cherry exports of more than 100,000 tons a year go to China, and the potential for growth remains high.

The fruit currently generates some $500 million in export revenue, Furche said during a tour of a cherry plant Agricola Garces, accompanied by China's ambassador to Chile, Li Baorong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Chile in November "is a good indicator of the current peak in relations between the two countries," said Furche, adding "China's leader has invited (Chile's) President Michelle Bachelet to make a state visit to China next year."

"Both heads of state pledged to further expand our free trade agreement, not just in trade, but also in investment, which is good news for Chilean agriculture, because the future of our food exports lies in China," said Furche.

The official underscored the importance of labor and investment involved in developing a country's exports.

"No consumer imagines the technological development and added value that goes into a simple cherry that, after being picked, travels three weeks by ship and arrives in perfect shape at its destination market in Asia, mainly China," said Furche.

That effort requires "investment, betting on the future and technological development, and it is an example of how dynamic Chile's agricultural sector is," he said.

Chile's agricultural sector is thriving and generating jobs, said Furche, noting Agricola Garces employs more than 700 people.

In fact, the sector employs 10 percent of the country's labor force, though that figure is as high as 25 percent in the southern region of O'Higgins, where the cherry plant is located.

"That's why it is good news for the country that we have an agricultural sector that is expanding," said Furche.

Chile's cherry harvest coincides with China's Lunar New Year, said Furche, "which is a happy coincidence for producers and sellers. In the first 10 months of this year alone, our food exports to China grew 16 percent."

China has become Chile's second largest export market and over the next decade it would become the largest, Furche predicted, adding the country's agricultural sector "is linked to what we can do in the Asian region."

China represents significant potential for growth, he said.

"Fruits, like cherry, cranberry and grapes, as well as Chilean wine, are in great demand in China," which is poised to become Chile's leading export market for wine this year or next, he said.

Li explained that during the Lunar New Year "it is ideal to have a box of Chilean cherries. They are renowned, making them the best gift for friends or family, and a symbol of cooperation between China and Chile."

Li also highlighted President Xi Jinping's visit to Chile and its success in leading to two new accords, one of them for Chilean nectarines, and both sides are working on it.

Li agreed that the Sino-Chilean ties are "at a peak" and expanding in various fields.

During the 2014-2015 cherry season, Chile exported more than 103,000 tons of the fruit, and that figure stands to rise as Chilean officials work with Chinese importers to expand the fruit's market share.

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