In mid-May of this year, the Chinese market opened for Chilean citrus, bringing huge opportunity to Chilean growers and exporters. San Osvaldo is a Chilean citrus company who work mainly with lemons, soft citrus, and navels. The company took advantage of this new opportunity and exported their citrus to China for the first time this season. Jose Manuel Ortiz says: “This year we plan to send a total of around 45-50 containers, filled mostly with lemons.”
Good market for first half of the season
The first half of the season has gone very well for San Osvaldo and for the Chilean lemon exports, Ortiz shares. “In general terms, I think the market has behaved well,” he says. “We have to observe the second half of the season carefully because the volumes that are going to be arriving are significantly higher than the volumes of the initial weeks. This is because the number of exporters sending product to China has increased.”
The market has been good overall, but there have been a few ups and downs so far. “At the beginning of the season, the demand was very good. However, this enthusiasm declined in the following weeks. Now, we are again seeing good levels of movement. A market with the size of China is always interesting, and I think that diversifying our markets will be very good for San Osvaldo, and for the Chilean industry in general.”
While there are other origins who supply the Chinese market during the same time frame as Chile, Ortiz shares that the product from Chile has a distinct advantage in the market. “Our lemons don’t require cold treatment, which makes it an attractive product with a bright yellow color and, most importantly, a longer post-harvest life. The other origins that supply lemons during the same window either require the cold treatment before admission, or don’t have the same advantages of an agreement like the one that was achieved by Chile,” he says.
A new market means new requirements, consumer habits, and demands. “The Chinese market is a high-end market, in terms of quality,” Ortiz explains. “Consumers are aware of this and demand it; this is one of the keys to succeeding in there. Without a doubt, it is a demanding market and it would be a mistake entering the Chinese market if you’re not aware of this. Next season could certainly be a challenge, as the supply will become more extensive and it’ll take more work to stand out from the rest,” he adds.
As this year was the first year that Chile could export their citrus to China, there is a lot of room for growth in this market. “We will see what happens. At least in these first years, I don’t think there we’ll have to divert product from current destinations, like the US for example, to help supply the Chinese market. However, the experience of other products has shown us that China can surprise us; who knows, it might become a favorite destination for the Chilean lemon!” Ortiz concludes.