SANTIAGO, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chile became China's leading supplier of fresh fruits in 2016, overtaking Vietnam and even Thailand, local media reported on Wednesday.
Chile exported 1.2 billion U.S. dollars of fresh fruit, mainly cherries, to China last year, the daily La Tercera said, citing data from Chile's export promotion agency ProChile.
Thailand ranked in second place, with 1.15 billion U.S. dollars in fruit exports, followed by Vietnam, with 635 million U.S. dollars, according to the daily.
Despite a 3.7-percent decline in national exports overall, Chile's fresh fruit exports to the Chinese market grew 23 percent over 2015.
"In the past 10 years, our exports to China have grown 18-fold, going from 65 million U.S. dollars in 2007 to 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2016," said Alejandro Buvinic, ProChile's director.
That growth followed the signing of a free-trade agreement between the two countries in October 2006.
Likewise, "China gradually increased its presence in the domestic market, until it became our leading trade partner in 2015, a position it maintained in 2016," said Buvinic.
Cherries led the list of fresh fruit exports to the Asian market, followed by grapes, plums and cranberries.
Buvinic said Chilean fruits stand out in the Chinese market with 98 percent of the imported cranberries in Chinese market being from Chile, as well as 80 percent fresh cherries and plums.