China gets easier access to cranberries

China gets easier access to cranberries

Thanksgiving in the US means cranberry consumption - about 20 per cent of all US cranberry consumption is done during the holidays - and a new certificate issued to US cranberry growers means that the red berry will have an easier time making it to China as well, where demand for cranberry has grown dramatically in recent years.

The Cranberry Marketing Committee USA (CMC) announced on Tuesday that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) now allows for issuing phytosanitary certificates for frozen cranberry shipments to China.

Phytosanitary certificates are issued to produce growers and handlers after USDA or state inspectors make sure that crops and produce don't have any pests or pathogens that can be carried into other countries upon shipment.

The certificates are generally issued for fresh crops and produce, and frozen cranberries were previously ineligible to receive them, which are required by the Chinese government.

The lack of phytosanitary certficates for frozen cranberries meant that once the fruit was shipped to China, it had to be quarantined at Chinese ports and checked before being allowed into the market, making the price of frozen cranberries much higher, Scott Soares, executive director of CMC, told China Daily.

"The Chinese government was looking for the issuance of this certificate, and we knew that this was being issued by not only Canada but Chile on frozen cranberries, so it was putting us at a competitive disadvantage, because additional storage time was holding back a particular product from the US," he said.

Because of the new certificate issuance for frozen cranberries, frozen blueberries and strawberries are also eligible for the new process, the CMC said.

"It's unusual that a certificate is issued for a frozen product, primarily because it's an inspection that the product isn't carrying pests and pathogens, and once a product is processed - in the case of cranberries, frozen - it's highly unlikely that there any pathogens or pests associated with that product," said Soares.

The CMC identified China as a target market in 2012, despite the fruit being relatively unknown in the country, and has worked with chefs and other authorities to try to raise awareness of the fruit.

Soares said that the berry - a native North American fruit - has qualities that are particularly attractive for the Chinese consumer. The berry's low sugar content means that it can be applied to foods both sweet and savory, he said, in addition to the cranberry's health benefits.

"It has some unique health benefits that are very attractive to the Chinese market, primarily because of things like antibiotic resistance and urinary tract infections and stomach issues," he said. "Not to mention it's also a naturally red fruit, which is an advantage in and of itself for the China market."

The volume of cranberries shipped to China has jumped in the last two years. CMC saw an 86 per cent increase in export volume from 2012 to 2013, and a 104 per cent increase from 2013 to 2014.

According to Soares, there were 58,000 barrels of frozen cranberries exported to China in 2014, which is about 6 million pounds (2.7 million kg).

"Besides the versatility and the health benefits, what the fruit is and the tart flavor that cranberry has, we think it has great potential in the China market," he said.

Cranberries join a host of other US fruits that are finding growing demand from Chinese customers, such as the US pear and apples from Washington State.

Pears from the US are new to the Chinese market, having only been in the market for two years after the Chinese government agreed to begin allowing the fruit into the country.

The USDA announced earlier in November that China lifted its ban on Washington State red and Golden Delicious apples, which are the only two kinds of US apples allowed to be exported to China.

China is the US' biggest destination for food and agricultural products, with exports nearly doubling from US$13.1 billion (S$17.0 billion) in 2009 to US$25.9 billion in 2013, according to the USDA.

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