China is the world’s largest fruit producer, exporting to over 100 countries. Around 65% of Chinese exports go to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Russia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Philippines. This article focuses on the cultivation of grapes in China. In 2017, China harvested no less than 1.5 million tonnes of grapes, 19% of global grape production. Although the main variety is Red Globe, the number of seedless varieties has grown in recent years.
China is the world’s largest fruit producer exporting to over 100 countries.
Chinese grapes have never formed part of Aartsen’s product range. But at a certain point, Aartsen became interested in the story behind the remarkable growth in this market. After Derek Cheung, Allen Wang, Wayne Jongerius and Menno van Breemen spent some time immersing themselves in the market, they decided to travel to the interesting and promising region of Dali. They wanted to get to know the products, growers, region and opportunities better on location.
Allen lives in China and has in-depth knowledge of the range of Chinese fruit available. With his knowledge and experience, he was the perfect person to help the team in their search for good growers. Derek reports on the trip in nonstopfresh magazine.
Menno, Allen, Wayne and I first flew from Hong Kong to Kunming (a city with around 6,000,000 inhabitants) in the province of Yunnan. This was followed by a four-hour journey by train and car to Dali. This city is located on the south-western border of China, near Myanmar. The next day we headed to the mountains where we had appointments with eight growers. During the car journey, we noticed that the infrastructure was new and in excellent condition. Significant investments are also being made in this area. Along the way, we enjoyed the wonderful views of the numerous farms which are nestling on the edge of the mountains.
After a two-hour journey we arrived in Binchuan, the grape capital of Yunnan. The grape season starts here each year and slowly moves north towards Xinjiang. It lasts around four months, so this region has a long season for grapes.
Something unprecedented has happened here. A whole town has been created, consisting of small vineyards owned by growers who cultivate and package the many varieties. Once they have been packaged, the growers transport their harvest to the warehouses which are managed by large companies and where the further selection and checks take place.
The government has divided agricultural land between hundreds of families, so there is some stiff competition. Each family is extremely dedicated as a result, which also explains the high quality of the products. In this region, the growers hardly use any mechanised equipment during the harvest and this keeps costs low. The central location of this region also ensures that transport times are short and transport costs to other Asian countries are low.
In China, technological development is extremely important. For example, smartphones are an important part of daily life. When it comes to social networks, logistics, business know-how and insights, everything takes place with the help of the smartphone. It’s impossible to imagine life without the device. For example, some growers in Dali are happily using mobile platforms to promote their grapes.
Agriculture and farming are flourishing sectors in China. Now that investors from the US and South America are also investing heavily in Chinese vineyards, the quality of the products will continue to increase on the one hand and more varieties will be planted on the other. At the same time, thanks to the efforts of investors, local growers will use new methods which will also increase their production. Allen, Menno and I are convinced that the agricultural products from China will reach new quality standards and gain a global reputation as a result. The future looks promising here!