According to a report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hong Kong (China) is one of the main destinations to which exporters from all over the world send their fresh fruits. Farmland in Hong Kong is limited. In 2022, local agricultural production (livestock and crops) produced around US$173 million in fresh food. Therefore, Hong Kong depends on imports of fresh produce to feed its 7.3 million residents.
The openness of Hong Kong’s food import regime and its well-traveled consumers demanding a wide range of fruit offerings make this city an excellent and competitive fresh fruit export destination. Hong Kong consumers are health conscious and fruits are an integral part of their daily diet.
In 2022, U.S. exports of fresh fruit to Hong Kong declined 27% to $105 million from 2021. High prices and disruptions in shipping logistics as a result of the pandemic contributed to that. However, US fresh fruit exports began to recover in 2023, growing 20% in the first ten months of last year.
Hong Kong consumers prefer various US fruits such as oranges, apples, cherries, grapes and strawberries. Among all the fruits imported from the US, citrus fruits are the most popular. Other fruits that they import come from Chile (cherries), Thailand (durians), Peru (grapes and blueberries) and Japan (strawberries and apples).
Cherry imports: Dominated by Chile
In 2022, global fresh fruit imports from Hong Kong decreased by 18% to US$3.7 billion compared to 2021. This overall downward trend continued through the first ten months of 2023, with imports falling by 27%. year-on-year. The US was the fifth largest supplier, supplying 5% of the city’s total fruit imports. Since 2018, Hong Kong’s fruit market has been dominated by Chile and Thailand. Chilean cherry imports have accounted for up to 82% of Chile’s total fruit sales to Hong Kong.
According to the USDA, although the US also supplies cherries, Chilean ones have a different seasonality than American ones since they ripen between April and July, while Chilean ones do so during the winter. As Hong Kong families usually have a couple of celebrations in winter (Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year), fruits are popularly used at family gatherings or as gifts. Therefore, there is a high demand for premium fruits during this period.
According to the study, Hong Kong has always been a commercial hub that facilitates trade to neighboring economies such as China. In 2022, Hong Kong exported US$2.6 billion in fruits to other markets (70% of total imports) and retained US$1 billion (30% of the total) for local consumption.
In 2022, about 69% of imported fruits were re-exported to China and 1% to the Macau region. The most traded fruits were durians and cherries.
Although Hong Kong re-exports much of its fruit imports to China, the city still represents a US$1 billion market for local consumption. Hong Kong consumers tend to choose fruits based on their seasonality (when harvests are sweet and tender) and origin (for safety and quality).
Hong Kong consumers are not usually so sensitive to the price of fruit, especially when it comes to seasonal or special products. A good example of this trend is the popularity of Japanese fruits in Hong Kong despite their price. In this sense, fresh fruit from the US is in a privileged position in this market, since it enjoys a good reputation for its safety and quality.