At central Lampung province in the southern part of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, gloved workers are picking ripe pineapples in the field and throwing them onto a conveyer belt, with a truck waiting at the other end to take the fruit to the canning factory.
With sufficient tropical sunshine and high temperature throughout the year, there are about 200,000 sweet pineapples to harvest every single day at the plantation of PT. Great Giant Pineapple (GGP), a large private-label manufacturer of canned pineapples.
“We divided the plantation, covering over 30,000 hectares of land, into several zones, and harvest all the pineapples in each zone at the same time,” said Murdi Suprayitno, a production planning worker of plantation group one.
About 50 percent of the GGP’s pineapple production is exported to more than 60 countries and regions. Besides canned pineapple, it also produces fresh pineapple, jam, cubes in cups, juice concentrate, and canned fruit cocktails.
“Right after Indonesian fresh pineapples gained official access to the Chinese market, we started to plant more pineapple trees accordingly to boost our production capability,” said Welly Soegiono, the GGP’s director of corporate affairs.
In August 2022, the General Administration of Customs of China issued a new protocol, which approved the export of Indonesian fresh pineapples to China if they meet requirements.
“This is what we have been longing for. Since China’s domestic production of pineapples is very limited, there has huge potential for imported pineapples,” said Soegiono.
Right after the approval, the GGP started to export fresh pineapples to China immediately. Until now, over 42 containers carrying over 580 tons of pineapples have been shipped by cold chain from Lampung to southern China’s seaports.
It takes about eight to 10 days to send the pineapples to China, with stops at other countries in between. The temperature needs to be kept under 10 degrees Celsius to protect the fresh fruit from going rotten.
After unloading, the containers will be filled with fruits like apples, oranges, and pears, which grow in abundance in China but not so in Indonesia, and travel back.
The fruit trade between China and Indonesia has become more and more vigorous in recent years.
“Under the scheme of RCEP as well as the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA), the company is able to export pineapple products to China duty-free. With fast customs clearance, Indonesian pineapples thus reach customers fast, with good prices,” said Cindyanto Kristian, CEO of fresh fruit and GTM (Go to Market) of PT. Sewu Segar Nusantara, a company in charge of the distribution and marketing of fresh fruits in collaboration with the GGP.
“Therefore, all these have helped our products gain more competitiveness,” he added.
Previous market investigation has shown that Chinese customers are willing to pay more for quality fruits, and they prefer eating fresh over canned ones, Kristian said.
“This drove us to raise local production standards,” he said. “Customers can tell the quality of a pineapple right after cutting it open, so we must make sure that pineapples sent to them are fresh with high quality.”
Now Kristian needs to fly often between China and Indonesia. He is not only pushing for market expansion from southern China to the north and finding reliable distributors, but also using various international exhibitions held in China to promote Indonesian pineapples.
Using the brand Oriji in China, the GGP started participating in various shopping festivals in China and joined in online live-streaming sales.
“Indonesian pineapples feature strong aroma, bright color, and sweet taste. I believe they will gain preference from Chinese customers soon,” said Kristian.