The European avocado market during South Africa’s export window held some surprises this year: Israel had a far bigger crop than normal and stayed on the market much later than expected, says Clive Garrett, chairperson of the South African Avocado Growers’ Association.

“Peru’s had a very big crop, I understand at one point they were packing a record number of containers (over 700) per week. Spain and Morocco were also very late still on the market and even Chile, which has had drought for the past couple of years, had a bigger crop than they’ve had in the past.”

Avocados from all of these countries hit the market at the same time, creating a perfect storm, Clive says, through either very large crops or extended seasons (or both), which inevitably caused an oversupply and pressure on avocado prices in Europe.

“Where in the past you’d probably be looking at 9 euros plus for a 4kg carton, now it’s down to 7 and 8 euros. It’s really been a tough season,” Clive remarks. “What some in the industry are doing – those who can – is to let their fruit hang a little bit longer until volumes in Europe clear.”

The South African avocado harvest is around 65% through.

He adds that retailers in Europe tell them that they regard the overlapping of so many avocado-producing countries this year as an anomaly.

“That’s at least reassuring, that this is not the norm. It’s been one of those years that are completely unusual.”

Domestic prices firmer despite large supply
South Africa’s early avocado areas like Levubu have finished their avocado harvest. Tzaneen and the Mpumalanga Lowveld are full at harvest, while KwaZulu-Natal and Southern Cape are yet to start.

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“We’re still going to meet the 15.5 million export boxes (4kg) we’ve been talking about all season.”

Prices on the domestic market are firmer, despite large volumes (approximately 100,000 cartons on the municipal markets countrywide): Fuerte avocados, South Africa’s favourites, obtain R70 (4.18 euros) to R75 (4.5 euros) and other cultivars follow at around R64 (3.8 euros) per 4kg carton.

Avos also shipped from Maputo
Avocado producers seeking to load reefer containers on-farm have struggled to obtain equipment, but in general container constraints have not hampered South African avocado exports this season.

This season avocado containers have also been shipped from the port of Maputo in Mozambique.

Author: Carolize Jansen
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