After a slower than normal start, Chilean cherry imports into the US are nearing the end for the season. Some importers have booked their last shipments which will be coming in over the next month. It has not been that long since promotable volumes started arriving after storms caused the slow start to the import season.
"Usually, we start our cherry imports during the second week of November," observed Marcial Hernandez of Pacific Trellis Fruit. "This season however, we saw very slow movement and very little volume just before Thanksgiving. It was only after Thanksgiving that we saw better volume. The main reason for the slow start was the storm activity in Chile so a lot of volume was not able to be loaded. Right now, the season is just about over with volume slowing and smaller fruit sizes arriving. There are not many shipments left, with our last shipment scheduled to arrive on February 15."
Some cherries sustained damage from the storms in November. These were not shipped.
Argentina a growing player
Also in the mix for cherry supplies to the US is Argentina. Although Argentina's cherry imports into the US are also just about done for the year, importers have seen steady volumes and good fruit sizing, along with a growing presence. "We have seen Argentina being more aggressive this year," Hernandez noted. "There has been more volume and better sizing from Argentina coming into the US."
Hernandez added that the US market has been receiving good volume from Argentina as this is a good market for them. "But this will change because Argentina have recently received the approvals to export to China and therefore they might look into that market next year," he mentioned. "We will have to wait and see what the effect will be for US imports."
Stronger US market a good thing
For Chilean cherries, Hernandez also pointed out that the US market has a hard time competing with the Chinese market, where the vast majority of Chilean cherries end up. Chilean exporters are attracted by the higher prices they can get in China, and therefore the US typically has to work hard to secure the volume it needs.
"Supply from Chile is always a challenge because we are competing with China," he said. "Usually, it's the reason why we see less volume at times. We have also been struggling with prices. Normally, the market drops after Thanksgiving and into December, but this season the market has been stable with good pricing throughout. Overall, the US market is getting stronger every year. We feel the industry is heading in the right direction because better prices on the US market will mean more steady supplies. This is also important because cherries have strong demand periods, such as Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year, so it's vital to ensure good supply throughout the season."