September 30, 2020
Foreign Trade

Chilean avocado exports hit their highest levels in 10 years and the industry prepares to enter the competitive South Korean market

Chilean avocado exports hit their highest levels in 10 years and the industry prepares to enter the competitive South Korean market
The Netherlands and the United Kingdom top the list of markets for Chilean avocados and now South Korea has opened its doors to this Chilean fruit, which will compete directly with avocado exports from the United States and Peru.

Between 2009 and 2019, the value of Chilean avocado exports increased 76%, rising from US$170.7 million to US$300.7 million in only one decade.

The Netherlands was the number one market for this fruit in 2019, totaling US$112.8 million, equivalent to 37.5% of all avocado exports. The United Kingdom ranked second, totaling US$54.6 million last year, an 87% increase with respect to 2018 imports.

In Asia, a market with a growing interest in Chilean fresh produce, China is the leading importer of Chilean avocados on the continent. In 2019, China accounted for over 8% of shipments, followed by Japan, whose imports increased 1,735% compared to the previous year. As for 2020, China continues to be the primary market, importing almost 9% of Chilean avocados. It also serves as a gateway to other important markets in Asia. “Chilean avocados have an established share in large markets and are currently making inroads into Asian countries, which have made a significant recovery following the arrival of COVID-19.  At ProChile we are continuing to work on opening up new markets, demonstrating that our food products meet the highest quality standards. We have focused on functionality and food safety, two aspects that are increasingly crucial for Asian consumers,” noted Jorge O’Ryan, the Director-General of ProChile.

One of the new markets in Asia is South Korea, a country which, after four years of intensive public-private efforts, has adopted phytosanitary requirements that will allow Chilean Hass avocados to finally become available to consumers there. The decision means that this Chilean product can reach thousands of new consumers, providing Chile with an opportunity to increase its exports to Asia, further diversifying its export basket.

As a new product on the South Korean market, the avocado is currently in the growth stage. “South Koreans consider it a healthy food and it is eaten in both salads and desserts, primarily as smoothies in cafés.  Due to the pandemic, there has been a boom in the consumption of healthy products and this opening is taking place at an opportune moment. Today, it is easy to buy the product through eCommerce channels and it is sent directly to the consumer in packaging that provides a very good level of protection,” commented José Miguel Sepúlveda, Trade Commissioner of Chile in Seoul.

Currently, only 5 countries — the United States, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru and now Chile — have received authorization to export this product to South Korea. In 2020 alone, South Korea has imported close to 7,000 tons. The United States is the main supplier at 3,000 tons, followed by Peru, which entered the market in May of this year, with 2,700 tons. Avocados imported into South Korea from these two countries enter at zero tariff.  “It has been so important for Chile to enter the market at this time, because we are currently in the middle of the season and we are also able to take advantage of the zero tariff. Furthermore, we are benefiting from the reputation of our fresh fruit, especially in terms of its quality and taste. These advantages will allow us to quickly position ourselves as an important exporter to Korea. We will be able to better compete with Mexico, which faces a tariff of 30%, and New Zealand, with 12%,” explained Sepúlveda, who also holds the title of Chilean Agricultural Attaché in Korea.

In order to strengthen our country’s presence in the Korean market, ProChile will carry out a trade promotion campaign showcasing Chilean products on major eCommerce platforms there, such as the massive Coupang. These platforms have increased their presence since the pandemic started and they represent a large percentage of all sales. We will continue to position and disseminate information regarding the qualities of Chilean food products, via a channel that is experiencing a clear rise in fresh product sales. We will focus on food safety, traceability and nutritional benefits, qualities that are highly valued in South Korea following the emergence of COVID-19.