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Spain: Jerte cherries fail to find market gap in China

In a month, the white cherry blossom will begin to turn into fruit, and the Jerte cherry harvest will then follow for another two months. The crop is the true economic engine of the area, since it is estimated that more than 85% of the 11,000 inhabitants of the 11 municipalities of the Jerte Valley make a living, in one way or another, out of the 30 million kilos of cherries that are harvested in a good campaign. Such a figure is also expected for 2018.

In the Jerte Valley, everything, or almost everything, revolves around cherries, but the fruit is currently clashing against the Chinese Wall. "We cannot export it to China, since cherries were excluded from the agreement for the export of stone fruit and there is currently no bilateral protocol to market this fruit. This is a pity, since the Chinese market is huge and there is a great demand for cherries, because China is a great consumer of this fruit. The cherries produced in the north of Caceres would certainly become successful there, without a doubt," affirms José Miguel Valle, counsellor at Campo y Tierra del Jerte, one of the most active companies in the sector.

"We hope that the Chinese market will open soon for Spanish cherries. With this objective in mind, we have created the Professional Cherry Board, to put pressure on the Administration and make it possible for this fruit to reach new markets." 

Spanish cherries closed the 2017 campaign with a production of 90 million tonnes, with the main producers being Extremadura, (35), and Aragón (25). In 2016, following the signing of the bilateral protocol between the Spanish and Chinese governments allowing the entry of Spanish stone fruit into China, Campo y Tierra del Jerte became the first Spanish company to export 20,000 kilos of plums to China by sea, in a container. "This was a technological challenge, because the fruit's journey to China lasts almost a month, but we have developed a technology that keeps it in good condition within the container for 40 days. And cherries are no exception to this, despite them being a very delicate fruit. Our company is a leader in post-harvest technology in the northern hemisphere and that allows us to reach any country in the world," said José Miguel Valle Torre.

China only admits one fruit at a time
While Spanish cherries have been rejected, the Chilean ones have entered the Chinese market with force. Chile has a similar cherry production to that of Spain; it is a pioneer in reaching remote markets and much of the production from the Andean country ends up in China, since it is its main supplier. Spanish producers complain that "the bureaucracy is burdensome and the negotiations to open the Chinese market for Spanish cherries could last for months, or even years," says a representative of FEPEX (Spanish Federation of Associations of Producers and Exporters of Fruits, Vegetables, Flowers and Live Plants).

The Cherry Committee at FEPEX has issued a request for the opening of several markets for Spanish cherries, including Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as China. At the moment, China and Spain are negotiating the table grape protocol, and only after this negotiation ends will they start with another product, which may be cherries, but there are also other candidates. The key is that the Chinese only negotiate with one product at a time.


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