BUENOS AIRES, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The recent opening of China's domestic market to Argentine lemon has brought a new opportunity for the local citrus sector, and the Asian giant has the potential to become a main export market in the near future, said to an industry insider.
San Miguel Global is one of several companies which, after more than 20 years of negotiations between China and Argentina, have started to export fresh lemons to the Asian nation, with an eye to expanding in a "market with high potential due to its volume and sophisticated consumption," the company's regional manager for America and Asia Juan Martin Hilbert told Xinhua.
"Exports to China was very important news for us, since we consider the market to be essential. Before that, we depended on exports to Europe and the United States, and we lacked that key player which is China," said Hilbert.
The end of June saw the first 24-ton shipment of lemons exported by Argentine company Citromax to Hong Kong, a "milestone" in trade and widely celebrated by the nation's citrus sector.
Shipments hew to "strict" rules to guarantee quality, so the lemons first undergo a 24-day cold treatment against possible pests or other contaminants, Hilbert said.
San Miguel's shipment is due to arrive in China in early August and will be sold at the wholesale market, online, and to tea shops across southern China, he said. "These tea shops are very popular throughout China, and lemon is one of the main ingredients used there to flavor tea."
The rules paving the way for Argentine's lemon exports to China were finalized in late 2019 after a historic bilateral agreement, and updated existing rules dating from 2004 that regulated the sale of sweet citrus fruits, such as oranges, tangerines and grapefruits.
"It is important for us to continue expanding in a country that is increasing its citrus consumption through tea and through vitamin C for the immune system. There are multiple uses for lemons in China and we want to capture that niche, that opportunity," said Hilbert.
The upcoming third China International Import Expo (CIIE) to be held in November in Shanghai "shows China is opening up much more, including fruit imports," he noted.
The initial lemon shipments to China may be relatively small by export standards, but they are part of a vital learning curve for Argentina's exporters, he said.
"For us it is important to do things well, for the fruit to arrive in very good quality both inside and outside, and gradually win over Chinese consumers to definitively consolidate this important market for our country," said Hilbert. Enditem