On 2 September, the People's Republic of China General Customs Administration communicated to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food its official authorisation to export Spanish table grapes to the Chinese markets, so the first shipments will begin this month. This concludes the negotiation of a protocol, which began several years ago and has required, among other things, two visits by the Chinese inspectors to Spanish production areas.
The negotiations for the authorisation to export table grapes have had to overcome numerous technical difficulties and have included audit inspections on the ground, since China is an extremely demanding country in phytosanitary matters.
The first visit by the Chinese inspectors to Spanish table grape farms took place at the end of last year and the second and last visit occurred during the last week of July, which concluded the procedure required by the Chinese authorities to authorise the export of table grapes to their country.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the plots, warehouses and cold storage facilities authorised by China are already registered on CEXVEG (Foreign Trade of Vegetables), the Ministry's computer application for managing imports and exports, so the exports can start immediately, this season. The Chinese delegation itself has especially highlighted the importance of CEXVEG in this market opening, as a key monitoring and management element that gives confidence in the phytosanitary certification system in Spain.
Thus, this season, it will be possible to export grapes from registered plots and facilities that meet the requirements of the export agreement between Spain and China. The grapes will mainly come from Murcia, Alicante and some specific areas in Aragon, Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha. This authorisation does not include the export of raisins.
This authorisation falls within the agreement reached on 28 November 2018 during the state visit to Spain by Chinese President Xi Jinping, when important export agreements for agri-food products from our country were reached, according to the Ministry.
Direct imports of table grapes by China rose to 413 million dollars in 2018 and in volume amounted to 207,760 tonnes, 15% more than in 2017, with Chile being the main suppliers, with 120,764 tonnes and a growth of 20%; Australia, with 49,425 tonnes (+20%), Peru, with 18,115 tonnes (+9.6%); the United States with 9,406 tonnes, 42% less and South Africa with 5,909 tonnes (+32%), according to the United Nations Statistics Division.
Spanish exports of table grapes to the world in 2018 amounted to 170,658 tonnes worth 337 million euros, with a growth of 18%, both in volume and value, compared to 2017, according to statistics from the Directorate General of Customs. Murcia represents 69% of national exports, with 115,153 tonnes, followed by the Comunidad Valenciana with 28,239 tonnes, produced mainly in the province of Alicante. The main destination is the EU, the leading countries being the United Kingdom with 64,800 tonnes, Germany with 32,000 tonnes and Portugal with 18,000 tonnes. As for countries outside the EU, in 2018, a total volume of 13,561 tonnes was exported, the main recipients being Norway with 5,600 tonnes and South Africa with 3,270 tonnes.
Spanish exports are concentrated in the second half of the year, so that official authorisation to export table grapes to China will allow market prospecting shipments to be launched during this season, according to APOEXPA, an association that represents most of the companies producing and marketing table grapes from Murcia and a member of FEPEX. The Federation also considers that the opening of this market is a unique opportunity, taking into account, in addition, the trade conflict between China and the United States, one of the main northern hemisphere grape suppliers to the Asian country.