Opinion

Chinese Market Acces to Italian Pears Amid Decreasing Output

Fresh Pear
Published Jul 31, 2023
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Italian pear producers have faced numerous challenges in recent years, leading to declining output. Changing weather patterns, pest and disease pressures, labor shortages, and diminishing profitability have all contributed to the Italian pear industry’s struggles. However, amidst these difficulties, there is a glimmer of hope as Italian pear growers secure access to the lucrative Chinese market. With its large population and growing middle-class consumers, China offers a vast market hungry for high-quality fruits. This newfound opportunity has the potential to revitalize the Italian pear industry and create positive implications for its relaunch.

Italy, the largest pear producer in the European Union (EU) and the second-largest globally, has recently secured access to the lucrative Chinese market for its pears. The protocol, signed on June 26 at Italy's Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty, and Forests during a visit by China's General Administration of Customs head Yu Jianhua, marks a significant step for the Italian agricultural sector, particularly for the Emilia-Romagna region, known for its historical tradition in pear cultivation.

The negotiations for China market access for Italian pears began in 2017 but were interrupted due to the pandemic. With the agreement finalized in the first half of 2023, the initial batch of Italian pears is expected to reach China by the end of this year. This new market access is an essential development for Italy as it opens doors to the world's most populous country, known for its growing middle-class consumers hungry for high-quality fruits.

The Italian pear industry, primarily concentrated in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, has faced numerous challenges in recent years. Pests, brown spots, extreme weather events like late spring frosts, and flooding have severely impacted production potential. In 2022, Italy harvested 474,000 metric tons (mt) of pears – double the previous year's quantity but still one-third less than the 2018 harvest. This year, experts anticipate another drop in output due to poor fruit setting, excessive petal fall, and the unpredictable impact of flooding in May.

The declining output has hindered Italian pear exports over the past five years, which plummeted by 31% in 2022 compared to 2018. The majority of Italian pear exports are usually bound for the EU, with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom (UK) being the main destinations. However, with access to the vast Chinese market, Italian pear growers have an opportunity to diversify their customer base and tap into the growing demand for high-quality fruits.

China's pear production has also suffered due to weather-related damage, resulting in a 1 million metric ton (mmt) decrease in output and a subsequent reduction in pear exports to an estimated 1.7 mmt. This has led to an increase in pear imports, with South Africa emerging as a new supplier in the Chinese market, contributing to the growth in imports. With the Chinese market now open to Italian pears, Italy can also benefit from this surge in Chinese pear imports.

Source: ITC

Although China is not a net pear importer, other leading pear producers have supplied China over the last few years. Belgium was China's leading supplier of fresh pears, with 42% of the import share in 2022, followed by Chile with 30%, and then by the Netherlands with 14.5%.

To seize the opportunities arising from the newly signed protocol fully, the Italian pear industry is gearing towards relaunching production. Strengthened trade relations with China offer a chance to rejuvenate the sector, restore profitability, and preserve traditional fruit-growing regions. Italy's well-regarded pear varieties, including Abate Fetel, Carmen, Conference, Decana del Comizio, Kaiser, Max Red Bartlett, Santa Maria, and Williams, hold the potential to captivate the palates of Chinese consumers seeking healthy and nutritious fruit options.

The Chinese market access for Italian pears is a ray of hope for Italian growers amidst the challenges of decreasing output and adverse weather conditions. This newfound opportunity holds promise for revitalizing the Italian pear industry, creating positive economic implications, and fostering strengthened trade relations between Italy and China.

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