Exports of Mexican blueberries to the Chinese market are unlikely to reach significant volumes while tariffs remain in place, according to a representative of Berries Paradise.
Protocols were signed between the two countries a year ago – granting access to Jalisco- and Michoacan-origin fruit – but a 25% duty on Mexican blueberries puts the country at a disadvantage compared to other Latin American exporters.
“Expectations are still quite low for China,” Berries Paradise sales manager Carlos Madariaga told Fresh Fruit Portal.
“Although Mexico has been able to export to China since June 2017 when the phytosanitary protocol was finalized, we still have this tariff in place, which limits out possibilities when Chile and Peru have a zero tariff.”
“So while it is a potentially attractive market, and one that is constantly growing, Mexico doesn’t consider it to be very attractive at the moment due to the tariffs.”
The company sent some trial volumes to the market during the season that is now drawing to a close. Madariaga said the berry season typically runs from around September through the end of June.
Mexico also gained Chinese market access for raspberries and blackberries in November 2014 – with the country’s first shipment arriving in January of the following year – but Madariaga said a 25-30% tariff rate applied to all three berry categories.
He said Chinese and Mexican authorities remained in contact, but it was unclear when negotiations to reduce or eliminate the duties may be successful.
Berries Paradise, which produces mainly raspberries, followed by blueberries and blackberries, was the first Mexican company to export blueberries to the Chinese market in June last year, with two pallets sent to Shanghai.
Madariaga said the company had hoped to ship around 40,000 boxes this season, but Chile’s high-volume season limited opportunities.
“There is interest in Mexican fruit, but Chile had a season that was very long and with low prices, so it was difficult to compete,” he said, adding the South American country had a record season that extended until early April.
In addition, he noted that the regulations for exporting berries to the Chinese market were very strict and required a long inspection process. He said that as there was not much difference in price in China, there was little incentive to reduce the focus on markets like the U.S., Europe, or other Asian countries.
Berries Paradise exports around 75% of its berries to the U.S., 10% to Europe and 10% to Asia, with the remaining 5% sold domestically.
Expectations for 2018-19
Looking ahead to the 2018-19 season, Madariaga expected Mexico would continue to consolidate its position in the U.S. market, noting its proximity was a huge advantage.
“A truck can arrive in a couple of days at our clients’ doors, and that gives us a big product in terms of quality of the product,” he said.
He said while blackberry production may see a slight decline this season, blueberries and raspberries were on a clear upward trend. California’s drop in blueberry production this year could also benefit Mexican exporters going into the next campaign.
Berries Paradise has also been busy planting new berry varieties in a bid to remain competitive in the future. Madariaga said Biloxi was the most abundant blueberry variety but noted the company had a close relationship with U.S.-based Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, whose varieties it has been growing.
“We are betting on innovation with new varieties…the old varieties are surely going to disappear, and those that don’t develop their varieties are going to be at a disadvantage,” he said.