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Leading deciduous fruit exporters around the world are seeing demand in many traditional markets either stagnant or declining. They agree that Asian markets offer the best future growth prospects because of their large populations and rapidly rising incomes.
A new study entitled “Asian Import Demand for Apples, Pears, Sweet Cherries and Kiwifruit, Potential to 2020,” published by Belrose, Inc., set out to quantify the volume of imports of each fresh fruit that could be imported by 16 different Asian countries by 2020 under reasonable assumptions about future growth of per capita incomes and populations.
The 16 Asian countries studied are highly diverse. Populations range from giants like China and India to minnows like Hong Kong and Singapore. Population growth rates vary from 1.4 percent annually in South Asia to close to zero growth in Japan or Taiwan. World Bank data show average per capita incomes (in terms of U.S. dollar purchasing power) ranging from less than $5,000 in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, to over $30,000 in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan.
Even more pertinent, Asian countries have differed widely in the level of imports of the different fruits, in the volatility of changes from one year to the next, and in the long-term rates of import growth. For example, countries like Thailand and Indonesia suffered sharp setbacks to fresh apple imports in the years following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, but have grown strongly since (see “Asia’s apple imports”).
India’s imports have surged since that market was opened in 1998-1999, while those of Taiwan have shown little growth. In the 2008-2010 period, per capita imports of fresh apples ranged from one-sixth of a pound in India to almost 13 pounds in Taiwan. But with India having a population 53 times as large as Taiwan, India’s potential imports are many times greater than those of Taiwan.
Our analyses showed that the rate of growth of imports of these fresh fruits will be strongly influenced by the rate of economic growth. For example, if real percapita gross domestic product grows between 2010 and 2020 at the same fast rate as it did between 2000 and 2010, we can expect these 16 countries to increase imports of fresh apples by about 56 million 40-pound boxes (76%), fresh pears by over 17 million 44-pound boxes (90%), and fresh sweet cherries by almost 11 million 20-pound boxes (153%).
However, if their economies grow at only half the 2000-2010 rate, these 16 countries could still increase their imports of fresh apples by 26 million boxes (38%), fresh pears by 9.5 million boxes, and fresh sweet cherries by 5 million boxes (73%).
In general, substantial increases in apple imports can be expected even in countries with relatively low income levels. However, increases in sweet cherry imports will come primarily in countries with large numbers of high-income consumers, like China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
These forecasts indicate the potential volume growth of major Asian markets. However, they do not show how lucrative any particular market will be to any particular exporter. For example, in countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh, the prices of most imports may be too low for Washington exporters to sell there at a profit. Some markets may be more ready for higher-priced or specialty products than others. Even in higher-priced markets, there will be stiff challenges from competitors like China, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, France, and Italy.
Success for exporters will depend on:
- how well they adapt their products, pricing, and packaging to the changing requirements of these very different markets, and
- how effectively they promote their products as these markets become increasingly discriminating.
The key step in making forecasts was to measure the historic relationships between various explanatory factors and actual imports of each fruit in each country. Previous studies have described factors associated with increased import demand, including rising incomes, the emergence of a middle class, retail modernization, increased urbanization, cultural values, positive or negative attitudes to trade by country leaders, trade barriers, etc. Demand relationships are also affected by changes in exchange rates and domestic inflation.
For many countries and fruits, per capita imports were strongly influenced by average import prices and per capita GDP, after adjusting for exchange rate changes and domestic inflation. The measured relationships were then used to forecast per capita import demand for each fruit and each country in 2020 at different rates of growth of real per capita GDP. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s population forecasts for 2020 were used to forecast import volume.