Do US cherries lose competitive edge in China?

Overseas cherry exporters to China didn't worry too much about competition from domestic cherry growers in the past, as Chinese cherries were often considered inferior to foreign cherries in taste and packaging. But now that trend is reversing as China's homegrown cherries have been scooped up by Chinese customers, while some overseas cherries, particularly those from the US, are losing their market in China.

Currently, some early-season cherries grown in California can be found for sale in the Chinese market. But in the observations of one industry insider, those cherries have been selling poorly in China.

The majority of China's imported cherries come from Australia, the US and Chile. But China also imports a limited number of cherries from New Zealand, Uzbekistan, Canada and Argentina, Liu said.

US imports under pressure
In June 2018, China announced it would raise the import tariffs by 25 percent on a number of US goods, including a list of US agricultural and aquatic products, in response to US tariff increases on Chinese goods. With the 25-percent tariff increase and a 15-percent tariff increase imposed earlier in April by the Chinese government, some US food will face an extra 40-percent tariff increase.

For example, the import tariffs on US cherries were raised to 50 percent from 10 percent, and the situation is the same for US apples. The import tariffs on US oranges were raised from 11 percent to 51 percent.

The toll the tariff increases had taken on US cherry exports was already evident in 2018, with statistics showing that cherry export volumes from the US to China through July 2018 were a third lower year-on-year.

Now, with the trade negotiations still proceeding, some US cherry industry insiders are worrying about their fruit's fate in the Chinese market this year. 

The cherry season for the north-western US won't begin until the middle of June. More than half of the $226 million in US fresh fruit exports to the Chinese mainland in 2017 came from cherries.

US cherries losing their appeal in China
As US cherries lose their appeal, the popularity of Chinese cherries is soaring. A Shanghai housewife told the Global Times that she recently - and for the first time - bought some Chinese cherries for her family. In the past, she only bought cherries imported from Chile or the US.  She described the taste of the Shandong cherries as being "not as sweet as imported cherries, but much juicier."

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