A Slice of Opportunity: Benin Joins China’s Fruit Export Market

The recent visit of Benin’s President Talon to China did not hit many international headlines. However, it was particularly interesting for Africans because during the visit he secured a new agreement granting permission to export the West African nation’s fresh pineapples to China. Alongside Kenyan, South African and Tanzanian avocados, Rwandan chilis, South African citrus fruits, Tanzanian soybeans – Beninese pineapples are joining a rapidly growing list of fresh products that are finally allowed to be exported to the Chinese market.

Although this is on paper a huge success, there are still many challenges to overcome if Benin is to really capitalise on this deal – and here’s why.

First, history shows that negotiating this type of deal doesn’t necessarily result in large volumes of exports. Benin is not the first African country to export pineapples to China. Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa have all exported small volumes of preserved pineapples to China for a few years before exports fizzled out entirely.

Why? Because China already has a wealth of options to choose from. The Asia-Pacific region is the world’s largest producer of pineapples. In 2021 the Asia-Pacific produced 13 million metric tons of pineapples, which accounted for 41% of production globally. Within Asia, the two top pineapple producers, Indonesia and the Philippines, are almost China’s neighbours, which makes them an appealing import source for China.

Africa, on the other hand, produced less than half the pineapple volumes versus Asia-Pacific in 2021 with just 5.2 million metric tons of fresh pineapples. Even China itself produces pineapples, although highly seasonally and not enough to feed demand, hence China’s reliance on imports.

This has contributed to China becoming the world’s second largest pineapple importer behind the USA. China imports the majority of its pineapples from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. China imports mainly fresh or dried pineapples (82%), preserved pineapples (15%) and a small amount of pineapple juice (3%) – the latter primarily from Costa Rica. Competition might become even fiercer in the Asian-Pacific region as Malaysia has also expressed its desire to become a major exporter to China and began exporting its fresh pineapples to China in 2017.

Second, the deal itself did have some limitations.

Exporting fresh products can be great for country promotion and some revenues, but African governments today are also increasingly focused on agricultural processing, manufactured products, and therefore value-added exports.

While Chinese consumers do have a preference for fresh fruit, especially compared to canned pineapples which are popular in African countries and Europe, China does produce some value-added pineapple products, such as pineapple syrups and powders, which are used in China’s infamous bubble teas and other drinks.

This should make it attractive for Chinese or other investors in Benin to not just focus on building capacity to export a consistent supply of fresh pineapples to China, but also invest in the manufacturing of these types of pineapple products for China, Europe as well as other African countries, which is in line with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Diversifying Benin’s production capacity and trade partners in this way will be beneficial to Benin’s development.

So what next? How can Benin make the most of the current deal and plan for the future?

Well Benin does have one significant advantage – its pineapples are significantly cheaper than those in the Asia-Pacific to import and have been consistently so. From 2018 to 2021 the primary value of Benin’s pineapples per kilogram averaged US $1.4 compared to Indonesia’s US $14.7, Thailand’s US $2.4 and the Philippines’s US $4.7 that all also fluctuated in value. Benin can definitely utilise this when trying to capture the market.

Benin can also leverage the difference in pineapple variety. Benin mainly produces the Sugar Loaf variety and the Asia-Pacific the Smooth Cayenne, the Honey Malang and the Singapore Spanish. An advantage of the Sugar Loaf is that it has almost no acidity in comparison to Asian pineapples, which is preferred by most consumers for taste and health reasons. The Sugar Loaf can also last for a few days longer in the refrigerator than Asian varieties, which is also a great selling point.

Another factor that can weigh in Benin’s favour is that China’s trade deals and import patterns in the Asia-Pacific region have been somewhat volatile of late. For example, China banned pineapple imports from Taiwan in 2021, and Vietnamese fruit has also just been blocked from entering China. These types of shifts can create windows of opportunity for Benin, albeit not necessarily a long-term one.

Furthermore, African leaders have been encouraging China to do more to support Africa’s industrialization by financing programs of manufacturing and value-addition, and it seems China is gearing up to respond better to these demands. Thus, Benin should continue to press for Chinese investment into processing of canned pineapples, pineapple juice and pineapple syrup and powder, whether then exported to China or to other destinations.

Last but not least, to execute these strategies properly, Benin’s government and more importantly pineapple exporters also need to have a strong understanding of the Chinese market including consumer preferences, effective marketing strategies and potential sales channels – something we support with through our Africa Reimagined programme.

No doubt, the news that super sweet Beninois pineapple will soon be in China is positive. I can’t wait to try them myself! But it will also certainly take more work from all sides to make it really make a difference to Benin’s pineapple farmers – who should be the ultimate beneficiary of all these changes.

Rosie Wigmore is the Project Manager of the Global Trade team at Development Reimagined. She focuses on researching developments in the Africa-China trade relationship and supporting high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market.

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Trevor Lwere

Research and Coordination Analyst

Trevor Lwere is a Research and Coordination analyst at Development Reimagined with a background in Economics and Global Affairs. His interests include geopolitics, geoeconomics and economic development. He holds a Masters’ degree in Global Affairs fro Tsinghua University and a BA Economics from the University of Notre Dame.

Yujie Shi

 Policy and Research Analyst

Yuejie Shi is a Research and Data Analyst at Development Reimagined with a special focus on Global Trade and China-Africa Trade.

Sena Voncujovi

Research Analyst

Sena Voncujovi is a research and policy analyst at Development Reimagined. Voncujovi specializes in global health issues, Japan-Africa relations, and China-Africa relations. He served as the Editor-in-chief of Peking University’s Africa Think Tank (PATT) during his master’s in International Relations & Politics as a Yenching Scholar. Voncujovi previously advised the Ghanaian government for the 2019 TICAD 7 Conference held in Yokohama. He is the co-founder of Jaspora, Tokyo’s largest community of African diasporan diplomats, changemakers, professionals, students, and business people.

Rugare Mukanganga


Rugare is an economist at Development Reimagined, providing economic and data analysis support across projects.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion.

Ivory Kairo

Communications Support

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team through liaising with African brands, creating graphic content and other external outputs at AR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French

Huiyi Chen

Partnership Development

Huiyi Chen is a Research and Coordination Analyst on China-Africa cooperation and leading the engagement with Chinese stakeholders at Development Reimagined.

Jinyu Chen

Research Analyst | Paris, France

Jinyu is a dual-degree Master’s student at Sciences Po & Peking University.  At Africa Reimagined, Jinyu produces research to foster better mutual understanding between African clients and Chinese consumers. 


Jade Scarfe

Communications Support
Jade is a research analyst and communication support at Africa Reimagined. She supports with liaising with African brands, creating content and gathering China market research.

Yike Fu

China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.

Rosie Wigmore

Project Manager | Beijing, PRC

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Leah Lynch

Deputy Director | Beijing, PRC

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.

Hannah Ryder

Founder and CEO 

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE’s International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


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