Later this year, a new ocean route for the importation of fruits is expected to open, linking the port city of Qinzhou, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, with Thailand.
Wang Wenyuan, deputy director of the Guangxi Qinzhou Free Trade Port Area Administration Committee, said the new route will further increase China's imports of tropical fruits from Thailand.
"In two or three years, we expect to see annual imports of more than 200,000 metric tons. That will play an important role in expanding economic cooperation between Guangxi and nations in Southeast Asia," he said.
The route is one of five set to open by the end of the year. They will connect Guangxi, in the Beibu Gulf, to destinations across the globe.
"In addition to routes to Southeast Asian nations, the new routes will help to connect Qinzhou with the Middle East and Europe," Wang added.
So far, Qinzhou, the largest container port in Guangxi, has opened 15 international routes.
Fang Jianli, deputy general manager of the Qinzhou Free Trade Port, said the facility has the potential to open more international routes in the coming years and deepen cooperation with the rest of the world.
According to Wang, since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013, Guangxi has seen a rise in foreign trade and exchanges. Now, the port plans to become an ocean-shipping hub for China's vast southwestern regions.
"Delegations from Sichuan province and Chongqing recently visited Qinzhou to seek deeper cooperation. Production costs will be greatly reduced when cargo from the southwestern provinces and Chongqing is shipped overseas via Qinzhou," he said.
"The distance between Southwest China and Qinzhou is about 350 kilometers less than to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, and about 800 km less than to Shanghai on the east coast."
According to official statistics, the port's throughput reached 360,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in the first three months of the year, a rise of 15 percent from the same period a year ago.
The full-year figure is expected to be more than 1.8 million TEUs, compared with 1.37 million TEUs last year.
In 2020, the Qinzhou government will raise annual throughput to more than 5 million TEUs.