China-Spain Trade: Spanish region of Murcia eyes China for table grape exports
Spanish table grape producers are close to opening markets in China. The news comes after an official Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs delegation visited the Murcia region in southeastern Spain to inspect the extensive farms and packing houses. Official signing ceremonies for import protocols are expected in the coming months, before the start of the next table grape harvest. The Murcia region alone produces 185-thousand tons of table grapes, bringing in revenues of $348 million US dollars and employing more than 12-thousand people. Al Goodman reports from the town of Totana in Spain.
During the harvest, table grapes converge on this packing house in southeastern Spain. From June to November, it operates round the clock. Stopping only on Sundays. Most of this fruit is exported to Britain, Germany and northern Europe. But that could soon change, as a new market, China, beckons. The company's marketing manager has been to Hong Kong, where they're already exporting, and says the Chinese mainland demands high-quality grapes.
JOSEFINA MENA MOYCA MARKETING MANAGER "For them, the fruit is like a present. It's the best present that any person can receive. So they like big fruit, good color, sweet fruit."
Two officials from China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs recently visited this plant, the largest around, and other locations in this agricultural region. Closely examining the grape production, for quality and sanitation, as the export deal gets closer. Everyone here wearing hygienic suits to protect the grapes.
JOSEFINA MENA MOYCA MARKETING MANAGER "The lady is cleaning the grapes. This grapes is coming directly from the farm, so they harvest this morning."
From farms like this, in the Murcia region, which produces 185,000 tons of seedless table grapes annually, the most in Spain. With revenues of about 350 million dollars.
In the past 15 years, the production of table grapes in this region of Spain has doubled. And the pending push into China and other Asian countries for new export markets could send production skyrocketing. The region grows about 50 varieties of seedless grapes, red and green. Even designer grapes with special flavors or shapes. All, under ubiquitous protective covers against the sun and occasional hail. The manager of the fruit producers and exporters association here says China is the obvious next step. Grape exports would start about two years after an earlier deal to ship peaches and plums from here to China.
JOAQUIN GOMEZ APOEXPA EXPORTERS GROUP "Europe is a market where everyone sells. It's well regulated but with lots of competition. So our sector wants to diversify and not concentrate the risks in one market."
Chinese and Spanish officials are expected to sign the trade agreement for table grapes soon, so that the fruits of the new harvest, starting next June, could be sent to China.