According to recently released data from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, in 2022, China imported a volume of 7.33 million mt of fresh fruit worth USD 14.6 billion, representing a 4% YoY increase in volume and 8% in value. By contrast, Chinese fruit exports declined in 2022 for the third consecutive year by 8% in volume and 15% in value. This is because Chinese exports haven’t recovered from the logistics impact suffered since 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown. However, the fresh import market seems to continue growing despite also being affected by port congestion and container shortage.
According to the Ministry of Transport in China, port container volume rose in 2022. China’s total cargo throughput increased by 3% YoY in 4Q-22, and the total container throughput increased by 7% YoY, driven by newly opened shipping routes and sea freight transportation routes along with economic partnership agreements signed in 2021. As a result, in 2022, China’s ports handled a total container volume of 295.9 million TEU, representing a 4.7% YoY increase. The Port of Dalian experienced the largest container throughput increase of all Chinese ports in 2022, handling 4.46 million TEU, a 21.5% YoY.
China’s ports are seeing a rebound in shipping container traffic volume with expectations that it will continue to grow. The increase in imported fruit is seen as a clear sign of a full logistical infrastructure recovery in China after the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced entire ports to shut down operations. However, the outbound containers for Chinese exports have declined 7% YoY, mainly due to high inflation and slowing economies in overseas markets.
Regarding imported fruit, China has maintained its upward trend for specific fresh fruit products with solid market demand. Fresh durians, fresh cherries, bananas, mangosteens, and coconuts, have all left the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic and have returned to the Chinese market. While bananas, coconuts, fresh durians, fresh dragon fruit, and fresh longans were the top five by volume, fresh durians, fresh cherries, bananas, mangosteens, and coconuts were the top-performing imports in value.
The Chinese market has become dependent on imported fruit products for their high consumption, such as cherries from Chile and Thai durians. According to Alice Zheng, Tridge’s Distribution Manager in China, Chilean cherries have been welcomed to the market after a long-awaited season. “After a long period of lockdowns, the market has officially welcomed the Chilean cherry season. Lots of cherries have been transported from the Shanghai market to the Guangzhou market over the last weeks of 2022”, she reported.
For key imported fresh fruit products, there have been partnership agreements along the supply chain with sea freight companies to ensure more synchronized logistics operations for fruit suppliers. The Cherry Express is a good example that has been active since the previous season with very positive results. According to the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX), 364.5 thousand mt of cherries had been exported to China during the current season as of Jan 31, a 17% increase compared to the 2021/22 season.
Thailand has remained at the top spot for four consecutive years as the leading exporter of fruits to China in 2022. By export value, the leading supplier of fresh fruits to China was Thailand, with USD 6.28 billion, but a decrease of −3.8% YoY. Chile is the second largest supplier, with USD 3.35 billion for an impressive 40% YoY increase, followed by Vietnam with USD 1.27 billion for a substantial rise of 42.7% YoY.