The coronavirus outbreak in China, which has already affected more than 6,000 people in that country, is having repercussions in the Chilean export cherry market, as this Asian country is its main destination. According to some entrepreneurs in the region, who have a large stock of fruit in this market, the cherries that are stored are at risk of being lost or sold at a lower price.
Ronald Bown, the president of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG (Asoex), said that “many of our cherries were sold before the Chinese New Year. In addition, some fruit is sold after this holiday, so making any balance on the effects of the coronavirus now would be precipitate.”
The president of the Federation of Fruit Producers of Chile (Fedefruta), Jorge Valenzuela, said that “the cold chain logistics chain has developed to such an extent that fruit, such as cherry, can endure more days at their destination without losing quality, ensuring sales and prices.”
Decrease in prices
However, Alejandro Rodriguez, the general manager of the Cochrane SPA Group, said that since cherry shipments take about 22 days to reach the Chinese markets, there is only a margin of two weeks left before the fruit starts losing its properties. "Even if the market reactivates and we sold more than the average every day, there will be a problem regarding the fruit's quality, which - in the best case - will result in a drop in prices," he said.
He did not rule out that up to 30% of the fruit stored could be lost, affecting the entire production chain, as the main trading places of this item will remain closed until February 5, according to projections.
He also confirmed the existence of nearly 1,000 containers of cherries in the Chinese market that have not been sold yet, plus another 800 containers of fruit that was recently harvested and is on its way to this destination.
Despite the current situation, Fernando Medina, the president of Agricola Central, said that the coronavirus had not had a major impact on the commercialization of cherry, as the largest outbreaks of the virus occurred in cities far from the coast, where a large part of this product is sold. “Our season is ending. All the fruit is already on its way or is there. The vast majority of it has already been marketed, so there shouldn't be any major problems,” he said.
The manager also said that, during the current campaign, this market had absorbed higher volumes than in previous periods, and highlighted that Chile was sending different quality cherries to China.