Call it chutzpah or call it marketing savvy – either way, Israel’s Plant Production and Marketing Board believes Chinese consumers are a ripe market for the easy-peeling Jaffa Orri premium mandarin orange.

Food historians pinpoint China as one of the first places to cultivate mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulate) about 4,000 years ago. The name of this sweet little fruit is taken from a group of high-ranking public officials in imperial China who wore orange robes and hats decorated with a button that resembled the fruit.

So why would China want Israeli mandarins? There are at least three very good reasons.

First, though China is the number one grower of citrus worldwide (20 million tons in 2016), it also imported 21,000 tons of mandarin oranges in the 2015-16 season, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

Second, online purchase of fresh produce is a huge trend in China, especially among young professionals, accounting for nearly $4 billion in 2014. Industry forecasts predict this trend will only grow.

Third, China’s production of mandarins and tangerines is expected to drop 900,000 tons due to citrus greening and unfavorable weather.

Thus, it does make sense to consider exporting this new Israeli breed of mandarin to China.

“We expect to dramatically increase sales volumes of the Jaffa Orri in the Chinese market in 2017,” said Tal Amit, head of the citrus sector at Israel’s Plant Production and Marketing Board.

“The Chinese are seeking premium mandarins and are willing to pay for its delicious taste.”

The Jaffa Orri mandarin was developed by scientists of the Volcani Agricultural Research Organization. Photo courtesy of Plant Production and Marketing Board of Israel

The Jaffa Orri was developed by scientists of the Israeli government’s Volcani Agricultural Research Organization to have an easy-to-remove peel, excellent flavor profile, minimal seeds and unusually long shelf life.

“As a result, Jaffa Orri aims to minimize fresh produce waste and can yield better profit,” said Amit.

The Israeli variety has a long harvest season of four months, which far exceeds the typical harvest season of around two months for most mandarins.

According to Amit, the Jaffa Orri mandarin already is feeling the love in Western Europe, especially in France and Germany.

”The growing demand for mandarin in China encouraged us to conduct a market research in China and Japan to learn about Jaffa Orri potential in these markets, including e-commerce outlets,” said Amit.

Results of the survey are expected next month.