Economic Watch: Southeast Asian coconuts gain popularity in China

Updated: October 26, 2022 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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NANNING, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- As a coconut lover, Zhuang Yong buys coconuts imported from Thailand in various ways, including daily shopping, online purchase, and exhibition sales.

"The taste of coconut is fresh and sweet," said Zhuang, a citizen in Nanning, the capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

In recent years, coconuts from Southeast Asian countries have rapidly gained popularity in China and are widely used in food and drink, such as cakes, coffee, and even hotpots. Various coconut products have enriched the taste buds of Chinese consumers while offering new opportunities for companies.

In the cold storage of a fruit wholesale market in Nanning, coconuts from Thailand were neatly lined up, which would soon go to restaurants, beverage stores, supermarkets, and consumers all over the country.

"In Thailand, after being picked, the coconuts are sorted and packaged by local factories and then shipped to China," Mo Jiaming, deputy manager of a trading company in Guangxi, said. Mo added that they had visited Thailand many times and had already signed cooperation agreements with Thai factories to ensure coconut supply.

The livestreaming on Chinese e-commerce platforms has become an important method for fruit merchants to expand sales channels.

The online sales of coconuts from Southeast Asia are booming. "In the past, we needed to drill a hole in the coconut with a knife to drink fresh coconut water, which was laborious and dangerous. Now, with the easy-opening tool fixed on the coconut, drinking coconut water has become more convenient," Mo said.

Besides drinking fresh coconut water, the hotpot cooked with coconut water and chicken is popular among consumers in China.

"I usually have coconut chicken hotpot with my family and friends every month. If not, I will miss it." Lu Shuai, a citizen in Nanning, said that the ingredients in the hotpot are fresh. Under the concept of consumption upgrading and healthy dining, coconut chicken hotpot perfectly meets the needs of consumers. At the same time, a series of coconut products like coconut milk, coconut jelly, and coconut ice cream also cater to consumers' various demands.

With the rising popularity of fresh coconuts and the increasing variety of coconut products, the demand for Southeast Asian coconuts in China continues to expand. Mo said that the company's total imports of coconuts from Thailand are expected to exceed 28,000 containers this year, and the average annual growth rate reached about 10 percent in recent years. He believed that in the future, the total amount of coconut imports would continue to increase.

According to statistics from China Customs, from January to July this year, China imported 566,000 tonnes of coconuts, an increase of 35.3 percent compared with 418,000 tonnes in the same period last year. From the perspective of importing countries, coconuts imported to China during the first seven months this year were mainly from Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, accounting for 48.6 percent, 32.5 percent, and 18.4 percent, respectively.

Thanks to the construction of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (a trade and logistics passage), and the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), regional transportation has improved, and regional logistics have continued to run smoothly.

Many logistics options are available for fruit transportation from ASEAN countries to China, including road and rail, as well as sea and air transportation, and multimodal transportation can also be customized according to different demands.

Wanlada Ratanapanich, the commercial consul of the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Nanning, said that Thai coconuts rank high in the total amount of imported Thai fruits to China. China's consumer market is large and in high demand, with broad prospects for the future. Thai companies must focus on the continuous optimization and diversification of Thai coconut products and take advantage of livestreaming, Chinese festivals, Thailand shopping carnivals, and other promotional activities to attract consumers' attention. 

Editor: Gao Jingyan