SANTIAGO, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) — More than 60 million boxes of Chilean cherries are destined for China this season, as the fruit becomes a symbol of growing trade ties between the two countries, according to Chilean Agriculture Minister Antonio Walker.
Cherry is the third-most planted fruit in Chile, and is poised to take the first place as it becomes increasingly popular on the Chinese market, he said.
Chile signed a bilateral free trade agreement with China in 2005, the first among Latin American countries. The two sides upgraded the agreement in March 2019. So far this year, 37 percent of Chile’s exports have gone to China.
For Chile’s agricultural sector, this relationship is of fundamental importance as the Chinese market has been open to Chilean products like citrus fruits, frozen fruits, cattle and, most recently, horses, Walker said.
In Chile, farmers and growers attach great importance to producing “very healthy, very nutritious and good-tasting food,” said Walker, noting that each year there are new Chilean products approved for Chinese market, bringing good news to both the producers and consumers.
Chile aims to import more Chinese agricultural products and jointly set up a 10-hectare farm in south-central Chile’s Nuble region, according to Walker, who noted that the two countries aim to further boost agricultural cooperation.
“We believe that this knowledge transfer, this exchange, is going to help our production systems a lot, and also introduce products that we do not have,” Walker said.
In 2018, China for the first time became the main destination for Chilean agricultural exports, accounting for 20.8 percent of the sector’s total exports, notably wine, fresh fruits and frozen pork.
Since then, Chilean food exports to China have been on the rise, with the Asian giant importing 26.1 percent of the sector’s total so far this year, according to the Office of Agrarian Studies and Policies (Odepa) at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Walker said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s trade with China remains “intact, because we have declared the agricultural sector to be essential.”
“We created the protocols and regulations to ensure work in the fields does not stop,” when social-distancing measures such as lockdowns are adopted, he said.
Chile will also strengthen sanitary measures to export procedures, from “harvesting to processing, packaging and transporting all products,” said Walker, trying to ease importers’ concerns amid a possible second wave of COVID-19 in January.