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Jun Pan, of Ole Fruit:

"Chinese oranges are sweeter than Spanish oranges"

After finishing his studies at the University of Shanghai in 2003, Jun Pan traveled to Spain with the intention of learning the language and knowing its culture. He soon fell in love with the city of Seville, where he decided to live, and with the quality of the Andalusian agricultural food products, which led him to think about setting up a company and exporting these fresh products to his native country. "Andalusia is a large fruit producer and it produces a good volume of quality citrus fruits. However, at that time there was no protocol between Spain and China that would allow exporting fresh citrus there," the businessman said. This didn't stop Pan, who five years ago founded Ole Fruit, a firm that sells more than 5.5 million kilos of oranges grown in the Vega del Guadalquivir to the largest Chinese supermarkets.

How is the citrus export campaign coming along?
We started the campaign in the middle of November and it'll come to an end in late April or mid-May, depending on the weather. On average, we ship about 250 containers of 22,000 kilos each from Algeciras to the ports of Shanghai and Canton. So far, our exports have increased by 20% over the previous season.

What is the origin of the fruit exported?
We work with the best producers in Andalusia. For us, it's not only about selling, it's also about providing a service. That's why we look for serious partners that are willing to learn and are respectful. We have been working with the Alcafruit company, which has more than 75 years of experience in the production of fruit, especially citrus, which is grown by its members in the Vega del Guadalquivir. It is a cooperative where everything revolves around quality, both in the processes and in the termination, freshness, and flavor of their products. We export oranges under Alcafruit's brand, Vega Sol, and under our own four brands: Huella, Corona Gold, Lucky Luna, and Ohsmiles.

China is also a big producer of oranges. What differentiates the Chinese and Spanish productions?
Their agriculture is dominated by small-scale farms, with a total of some 200 million small farms. The Chinese orange has a sweeter taste, which is more in tune with the consumers' taste there. We try to adjust to that and export varieties from the Lane group (Lane Late, Valencia Late, Powell, ...) so we don't coincide with the Chinese campaign.

The Asian market has become one of the most coveted markets for agricultural food exports. Is Spain doing what it should do?
We are still far away from countries like the United States and Chile. There are still aspects to improve in our exports. The United States, the main supplier of citrus to China with a 60% share, has more than 20 years of experience and already knows which varieties to choose, how much quality they like, how to prepare the merchandise, etc. We still have a lot to learn. For example, the Navelina orange variety does not travel well, so Ole Fruit does not export it.

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