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Led by fast-rising imports of cherries, China is claiming a greater share of Chilean stone fruit exports.

Chile’s cherry acreage has grown at a 10% annual rate over the past five years, and a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report said cherry production and exports also are headed higher fast — with most of that volume destined for China.

The USDA report on Chile’s stone fruit outlook said cherry acreage reached 91,500 acres in 2018-19, up from about 32,000 acres in 2010-11.

Chilean cherry growers sent 87% of their total 180,000 metric tons in exports to China in 2018-19, according to the report. The U.S. was the second-biggest export destination, but only accounted for 2.7% of total Chilean cherry exports.

As more cherry trees mature, the USDA projects cherry exports in 2019-20 will increase by 15%, rising to 207,000 metric tons.

The USDA report said Chilean exports to China will continue to increase in response to rising demand.

On the other hand, Chilean cherry exports to the U.S. dropped by 36% in 2018-19 compared with 2017-18, according to the USDA. Chilean exports to the U.S. in 2018-19 totaled 4,852 metric tons.

The third-ranked export market for Chilean cherries is South Korea, which imported 4,147 metric tons in 2018-19, up 56% from the previous year.

Other fruit

Chilean fresh peach and nectarine acreage was estimated at 18,350 acres in 2018-19, according to the report.

Chilean nectarine exports have shifted rapidly from the U.S. to China after gaining market access in 2016. For 2019-20, the USDA said planted area of peaches and nectarines will remain steady, while exports will increase 1% to 98,300 metric tons.

The report said the top market for Chilean peaches and nectarines is the U.S., but that may soon change. Chilean exports to the U.S. totaled 34,847 metric tons in 2018-19, but that was down 8% compared with the previous season.

On the other hand, Chilean peach and nectarine exports to China surged 30% in 2018-19, totaling 20,000 metric tons, according to the report.