Since yesterday, SFI Rotterdam has had Chilean cherries available again. China has been absorbing most of those in recent years. This importer - which has been housed in Schiedam, the Netherlands, with a view of the Maas river since this year - has nevertheless continued offering Chilean cherries in the pre-Christmas period. "I look forward to it every year. The product simply exudes festivity," Jan Marc Schulz explains enthusiastically.
"China has, of course, been the brightest star in Chilean cherry growers' sky in recent years. But, in the run-up to Christmas, they haven't forgotten Europe. Even though they don't send the volumes we're used to. About 15 years ago, we were still supplying pre-packaged Chilean cherries to supermarkets. When China opened up, those big programs were done. But we offer them for Christmas every year. How early in the season depends on the market situation."
"As Christmas approaches, Chilean cherries become particularly popular. They fetch better prices then too. They're indeed expensive, but even more so in China. So I hope European consumers will still appreciate these cherries. Last year, the global pandemic led to people being more inclined to buy luxury products. They ate these at home. There was, thus, good demand for Chilean cherries. We're hoping for a similar pattern this year," says Jan Marc.
He says it is perfectly possible to bring in high-quality cherries by ship. "The turmoil on the container market, however, means it's almost impossible to get containers in before Christmas. It seems the shipping companies have no interest in improving that situation either. I'm not ruling it out, but I'd rather not bet on it."
Logistics is not the only issue. Rising raw material costs and labor shortages are currently causing problems in Chile. "That's something producers have to contend with quite a bit. Picking cherries is very labor-intensive. And cherries are the first to be harvested. Those growers don't let their harvesters go anymore," continues Jan Marc. "The labor shortage will, therefore, probably be even more severe when Chilean blueberries will need to be harvested."
SFI has no desire to become a year-round cherry supplier. "There are other players for that. But we like providing Chilean cherries. We're familiar with their quality. And if there's demand, we can supply these well after Christmas. With sufficient demand and adequate prices, that's possible until late February," Jan Marc concludes.