Chilean fresh fruit expand global market penetration

“The Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) was created 80 years ago, and for the last 15-20 years the organisation identified two main issues: the sustainability strategies of the industry and what to do in the external markets, as stated by the organization’s head, Ronald Bown. “The key goals were to achieve food safety, the protection of the environment and social responsibility; having our people at the centre of everything.” It was also important to open new markets and to set strategies for the future.

While this has resulted in a continuous expansion of Chilean products worldwide, Mr Bown assures that ASOEX has had “to work together with the Government, with our phytosanitary agency, to open those markets in terms of phytosanitary issues, which is not easy. We finally managed to enter Japan after many years and we have plenty of products there, as well as in South Korea, China and many other countries.”

Now a new stage in this process has started with the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which for now includes 12 countries and will facilitate the entry of Chilean lemons to Japan with lower custom duties, as well as other products. “This has also allowed us to decide where to place our resources: in the short term, the U.S., Europe and surrounding countries; in the medium term, Russia and Central Europe and in the long term, Asia. We expect the Asia-Pacific area to become the main receiver of our fruit exports in less than 10 years.”

As regards specific products, he explains that, looking at export figures, cherries look the most promising, although 5 years ago it would have been avocados, though nowadays, blueberries and grapes also look great. What’s essential to take into account, according to Mr Bown, is that “you have to sell fruit that meets certain conditions in terms of quality or flavour, and try to supply what the customer wants. The most important aspects are credibility, transparency and flexibility, working always with a medium-long term view.”

All in all, he assures Chile will be investing to further improve the country’s productivity, allowing it to remain “a very important leader in the field of fruit exports.” Also, in the long term, “we would like more realistic market regulations in China to allow for fair competition, as well as deregulation of the (global) kiwifruit business, which is currently controlled by only one operator.”

At domestic level, efforts are being made to discuss relevant issues that affect fruit growers directly with the authorities, as explained by Juan Carolus Brown Bauzá, President of Fedefruta, an organisation in charge of representing Chile’s fruit producing sector and supporting them with training. “The Chilean market is now unable to absorb our production, so the threats are always outside, but the exchange rate is currently 30-40% better than it was 3-4 years ago, so we are in a good position to make investments, renew varieties or buy new machinery.”

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