Cherries are an expensive fruit with a high value and excellent flavor. They have become very popular with young people in recent years, even trending online. Imported cherries are large and juicy with firm fruit flesh and are easy to transport. Cherries have quickly established themselves as one of the major import fruits in the Chinese market in the last few years.
Trade is concentrated in the cherry orchards of Asia, Europe, and the Americas
The main exporters of cherries around the world are Chile, the USA, Turkey, Spain, and Australia. The three largest exporters are Chile, the USA, and Turkey. In 2019 these countries exported 220,000 tons, 84,000 tons, and 81,000 tons respectively. That was about 29%, 11.1%, and 10.6% of the global cherry export volume. China is the largest importer of cherries. The second- and third-largest importers are Russia and Germany. In 2019, these three countries imported 194,000 tons, 86,000 tons, and 66,000 tons respectively. That was around 23%, 10.2%, and 7.8% of the global cherry import volume.
Chinese import of cherries rapidly expanded in recent years, and cherries are now the second-most important import fruit
Chinese cherry production generally takes place during the period between May and July. In the other months the Chinese market relies on import cherries. There is a huge window of opportunity in the cherry market. The global cherry production volume is growing and transport technologies are improving. That is why the Chinese import volume of cherries quickly expanded in recent years. This development picked up speed in 2017. Data from the General Administration Customs China (GACC) shows that China imported 210,000 tons of cherries in 2020, which is an increase of 8.7% compared to the previous year. The import value was 1.64 billion yuan [250 million USD], which was an increase of 17.4% compared to the previous year. The import value of cherries accounts for 14.9% of the Chinese fruit import value, which makes cherries the second-most important import fruit just after durian.
Off-season supply and zero-tariff trade have turned Chile into the number one cherry supplier of the Chinese market
In 2020, the five main suppliers of the Chinese cherry market were Chile, the USA, Australia, Argentine, and Canada. But Chile alone was responsible for 91.1% of the Chinese cherry import volume. Chile takes advantage of its position in the southern hemisphere to supply the Chinese market during the off-season of the Chinese cherry industry. The Chilean cherry production season perfectly complements the Chinese cherry season. In addition, China and Chile signed a free trade agreement in 2006. More than 97% of the products traded between China and Chile fall within the 'zero tariff' agreement. And that includes cherries.
In addition, China has lowered VAT on Chilean cherries to further facilitate Chilean cherry supply of the Chinese market. In 2017, China and Chile signed a revised agreement that simplifies trade procedures. These new regulations improved the efficiency of customs clearance for easily-spoiled fruits such as cherries. The Chilean cherries can reach Chinese consumers within 30 hours. In 2020 Chile increased production and the price declined, which helped Chinese consumers celebrate "cherry freedom" during Spring Festival [January 25, 2020].
Domestic cherries have also gained popularity in the Chinese market because of their unique flavor. The overall surface area devoted to cherry plantation in China has grown nearly tenfold over the last 30 years, but still there is not nearly enough supply to satisfy domestic market demand. There is a huge window of opportunity in the Chinese cherry market and imported cherries are likely to dominate the Chinese cherry market for a long time to come.