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The great Chinese opportunity (or the great crash)

Spain will be the first country in the world entitled to export stone fruit to China, the planet’s most populous country that is destined to become the leading world power

A country of 9,597 km2, 1.37 billion inhabitants, of which 57% are already living in cities, offers infinite possibilities to Spain’s stone fruit sector.

By 2030, seven of the ten cities with the greatest economic development in the world will be located in China: Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Zhuzhou.

However, the Asian giant, aware of its strength, has been extremely demanding in the measures included in this bilateral exportation agreement. Spain, for its part, now Europe’s leading exporter of stone fruit, and without the market of the czars open to it, has great interest in being present there.

The negotiations to sell in the Chinese market have lasted for several years and overcome all kinds of difficulties, since the protocol has been signed after carrying out a complex risk analysis.

China is the world’s leading producer of many fruits and vegetables; it is a country that has generated wealth while paying a high ecological cost that has still to be quantified. Chinese citizens with high spending power are aware of the risks of their own productions, where sanitary control is inexistent. They therefore value products from abroad that are free from such risks.

With a mixed economy, in which the criteria of old communism are followed in theory, China has opened its doors to the world and created, in only a few years, a new social stratum made up of 50 million people.

This article analyses the main requirements established in the bilateral agreement between the two countries.

Special attention has been given to phytosanitary and biosecurity requirements and guarantees, in order to avoid any risk of spreading pests.

Previously, China had demanded that the Spanish government, by means of MAGRAMA, be aware of which plots and operators wanted to sell. This point has resulted in an official registration register, whose deadline expired in December 2015.

Plagues. The protocol indicates 11 pests that must be treated with specific measures and which require supervision on the part of the central or regional administration. These are quarantine plagues and diseases that the Chinese government will in no way allow into the country.

Two of these are considered to be of capital importance: ceratitis capitata and cydia pomonella (a pest that has only affected pip fruit in Spain).

The document explains in detail how to deal with each of them: specific measures, monitoring, physiological control and recording in the field notebook.

Ceratitis capitata. In the case of this disease, the following are some of the controls to be carried out: use of monitoring traps for at least 45 days from detection and one trap for every 5 hectares, with at least one trap for every inspection unit. Counting should be carried out weekly and recorded in the field notebook.

Another possible measure for eradicating ceratitis capitata is cold treatment. The fruit should be kept, for at least 16 days, at minus 1 degree Celsius or for 21 days at minus 2.1 degrees Celsius.

This cold treatment can be applied at source, before exporting by air. In the case of maritime exports, there is the option of treatment in transit. The fruit should be shipped in approved containers.

Cydia pomonella. In relation to cydia pomonella, despite the lack of evidence of such in Spanish stone fruit, the Chinese authorities imposed their conditions, as well as the way in which it should be handled.

Handling of packing operations. If monilinia fructicola is detected in storage, the produce will be rejected for exportation. The fruit must be free from insects and mites, and there can be no plant matter among it (leaves or branches).

Any openings in the packing boxes must be protected with an insect net, along with the pallet itself, in order to avoid re-infestation.

Packaging. Boxes and containers must comply with bilingual (English and Chinese) specifications. The label must indicate the name of the Chinese importer.

The box must show the name of the product, the origin (stating the province), the plot code, the storer and an expression indicating: “For export to the People’s Republic of China.”

Control at source. The control of authorised plots and warehouses can be carried out by the competent regional authorities.

For its part, the State is responsible for authorising cold-storage facilities and the Ministry will be in charge of the shipment’s cold treatment. It will certify that the treatment has been carried out and will give its approval. It will also be responsible for cold treatment in transit.

An inspector will initiate the sensors and records, and close and seal the containers. He or she will also carry out a special control of 2% of all fruit and a visual control of around 1,200 pieces of fruit, as well as cutting 40 pieces of fruit to detect any anomalies.

Control at destination. Chinese inspectors will check the documentation, verifying the data of the plots and warehouses registered in MAGRAMA.

In the case of shipments in transit, the Chinese authorities will be responsible for opening the container and verifying that the cold treatment has been correctly applied. They will also visually check the merchandise to detect any pests.

What happens if something goes wrong? Chinese inspectors can reject the merchandise if any warehouse or plot has not been authorised.

If the cold treatment does not satisfy the specifications, the merchandise will be returned, destroyed or re-exported. Chinese authorities will be in contact with the Spanish Ministry to ascertain what action should be taken in each case.

Precautions. It is advisable to use more sensors than required, since some may fail during the trip and not detect the temperature.

If ceratitis capitata or cydia pomonella is detected, quarantine treatment will be applied, or the produce will be returned or destroyed.

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