In an interview with ChileCarne, Santiago Lecaros, who was appointed Chilean Commercial Attaché in Gungzhou, China only a few months ago, explains the challenges he has faced in his new role, how he sees China’s outlook regarding COVID -19 and the African swine fever, and the actions he is planning for the Chilean food and white meat industries.
1 Since taking on your new role, what challenges have you faced?
I started my position as Commercial Attaché in Guangzhou in the midst of the pandemic, and undoubtedly that was the greatest challenge I have had to face. You need to be constantly searching for information, keeping in touch with exporters and importers, always staying one step ahead to prevent future logistical problems or at least mitigate any potential damage. Since I am in charge of the region, I have to report on what is happening locally with the aim of resuming fairs and events soon and maintaining our access to this important market.
It should be noted that some sectors or ways of doing business have benefited from the pandemic, such as e-commerce, all within a context that forces us to promote the adaptability required by an increasing digitization process, and more tools to help our exporters.
2 How do you see China’s outlook regarding COVID-19 and the African swine fever? How does it impact the Chilean economy?
Unlike the rest of the world, China is one of the few countries that has grown during COVID-19. This played in our favor, as China became our main trading partner in 2020, overtaking the United States.
If we focus on what is happening in China, we can see that the pandemic has negatively impacted most of the markets that directly compete with us, which translates into a lower volume of exports to this market. This provides room for our exports to grow, especially considering the good reputation of Chilean meat and the trust of the Chinese people in our health standards.
Additionally, African swine fever strongly impacted Chinese production, which opened up an important space for pork exports from Chile. However, although these situations benefit Chile, I think we must be cautious because they are temporary, so we must keep trying to grow our exports.
Currently, our office wants to be a key ally in the search for new growth opportunities, exploring and promoting joint efforts with other sector brands to keep positioning Chilean white meat in this important market.
3 What actions are you planning for the Chilean food industry?
Given the new global outlook, it is important to explore the on-trade market, without neglecting traditional retailers. Now more than ever. it is important to consolidate our presence on social media and the e-commerce channel, which have become the preferred means of transaction for Chinese consumers due to the ease they provide when buying.
In addition, it will be important to cover densely populated cities that our exporters are not directly reaching yet, without neglecting Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which are key markets in ProChile’s (the Chilean Exports Promotion Bureau) 2021 strategy.
4 What is your forecast for the Chilean white meat exporting scenario in 2021?
We expect a favorable outlook for this year, considering the situation of our competitors in this market due to the pandemic and ASF. But we should not forget that this is a dynamic market and that China is recovering fast. So, while so far our exports are arriving in optimal conditions, this may not always be the case, which forces us to be prepared, keep our high-quality standards, our good reputation, and position our brand in the rest of Asia.