Bilateral phytosanitary protocols between China and Ecuador were negotiated earlier this year, and on July 27 the General Administration of Customs of China formally approved market access to fresh dragon fruit from Ecuador. Yellow dragon fruit, also known as kirin fruit, was specifically allowed to be brought into China alongside its red counterpart. The majority of Ecuador’s fresh dragon fruit shipments to China will likely be of the yellow variety.
Concerned pests on the Chinese side include the Mediterranean fruit fly, South American fruit fly, armored scale, gray pineapple mealybug, and cotton mealybug, according to the guidelines.
To further lessen the likelihood of these pests hitching a ride to China on dragon fruit and reproducing domestically, the rules also dictate a set of procedures that producers and packers must take. Each export shipment from Ecuador must be sampled by the Agriculture Quality Assurance Agency (Agrocalidad) for inspection for the pests of concern; this may involve dissections to check for larvae.
The yellow dragon fruit is endemic to Ecuador and its neighboring areas. Rising in popularity among Chinese customers in recent years, their unique look and greater sweetness set them apart from the more common red dragon fruit. Historically, China has not been a major producer of dragon fruit, thus the rising demand has resulted in astronomical prices for yellow dragon fruit.
Still, recent years have seen a growth in the home cultivation of yellow dragon fruit in China. In 2021, widespread plantings in Hainan commenced, and it is currently believed that more than 1,300 ha are devoted to cultivation in China, with output expected to increase in the future years as the orchards mature.
Agrocalidad reports that in 2021, Ecuador shipped 17,895 tons of yellow dragon fruit to 27 countries, up 60% from 2020’s export total of 11,260 tons. For the time being, the United States is the biggest market for yellow dragon fruit, consuming 84% of all exported fruit. Yet, Ecuadorian growers are optimistic about the Chinese market, with some even predicting that China will someday import three times as much as the United States.
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