The country is now seeking to turnaround the situation, by ramping up its exports to China.
Starting from this cherry season (end of this month to late July), cherry produce from nine Turkish companies will be exported to China via air cargo.
“As the number of participating Turkish company increases, it is possible to send 50,000 tonnes of cherries to China. Turkish exporters have this potential,” Aegean Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Exporters' Association Chair Hayrettin Uçak told local newspaper Daily Sabah.
Turkey started exporting cherries to China only in August last year, with initial exports recorded at six tonnes.
Prior to that, it mainly exports cherries to Germany, Russia and the Netherlands.
Uçak said that cherry is a premium fruit in China and can be sold “at nearly five times the price sold in Turkey.”
Last year, the bulk of China’s cherry exports came from Chile, the US and Canada.
As for Turkey, its limited cold processing equipment facilities and the lack of air transport resources into China, have made cherry export into China a challenge.
According to data from the Turkish Exporters' Assembly (TİM), Turkey exported $183 million of cherries in 2016. This figure dropped by 13% to $159m, partly due to adverse weather last year.
Working on image
Uçak highlighted that quality is the most important in ensuring competitiveness of Turkish cherries.
“If we focus on good agricultural practices and have a little more sensitivity about spraying, the most consumed cherries in China may be Turkish cherries. As exporters, we will meet our producers frequently and solve problems in this regard," he said.
Besides pesticides, reducing the risk of having Mediterranean fruit fly on its cherry export is another task of the Turkish companies. Cherries can be exported into China via sea or airfreight. Either of which, cold treatment by cooling the cherries to one degree Celsius and keeping them for 16 days is necessary.
However, an exporter has said it is not possible for Turkish cherries to wait so long, and this may compromise its quality, which may undermine the outlook of future export, Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Other Asian markets
Besides China, Turkey is interested to export cherries to Taiwan.
Uçak said that a delegation from Taiwan will be visiting next month, to “see cherry gardens, businesses and packaging stages. We anticipate that we will enter this market after welcoming this delegation."