The Peruvian avocado industry's first full season entry in the United States didn't go quite as planned this year, but representative body ProHass will continue promotional campaigns in the country. As exporters look for new options to absorb volume, they at least have the U.S. phytosanitary stamp of approval to help seal deals elsewhere. ProHass general manager Arturo Medina tells www.freshfruitportal.com that Chile, Mexico, China and Japan are high priorities right now, along with raising domestic consumption.
Medina says the 2012 season was difficult and next year could be too, facing big volumes from key competitors during its supply window.
"When we arrived we were very enthusiastic to be in the American market, but then we saw the market had a lot of Mexican and Californian fruit," he says.
"So we encountered them and, caramba, we already had a program where we wanted to send them 50% of the volume we had projected, and what we had to do was draw back and look to our natural market of recent years, which is Europe.
"We need to be looking at opening up new markets - not just looking at Europe and we don't want to neglect the United States and will continue sending fruit there - such as Chile, Mexico, Japan and China.
He says the issue with Chile is that authorities ask for quarantine treatment, either as cold treatment or through methyl bromide application, which in the end damages the fruit.
"In Peru in 2009-10 we did a study that showed that Peruvian avocados did not have fruit fly. That finished satisfactorily with collaboration from APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), so fruit fly shouldn't be a barrier for us in exporting to the world.
"In China they don't have the habit of eating avocados so we would need to promote. We know that Mexico is doing promotions there, and we want to distribute - if we could get the Chinese eating more avocados it would be wonderful.
"Japan is attractive too, a good market, and Chilean and Mexican avocados are entering there."
On the issue of Mexico, Medina says many importers from the country have approached Peruvian avocado shippers to capitalize on periods when the North American country has lower production.
"We hope to open at least a few markets in the next year, this is our expectation. We are sure we will achieve this as there aren’t many reasons why they’d say no."
Medina firmly believes in the potential of existing markets as well such as the U.S. and Europe. Around US$1 million was spent on promotions in the latter this season, of which around half was destined for Germany.
"We think Germany has a lot of potential, and that’s why we’re betting so much on them.
The Peruvian market is also a priority for Medina, where cultural hurdles still need to be overcome.
"In Peru we have an avocado called Fuerte, which is highly consumed at around 95,000 metric tons (MT) a year. People keep eating Fuerte avocados and they don't know Hass avocados.
"Hass avocados were planted mainly for export, but what's now starting, last year we began promotions so people understand there is this other variety.
"But it's difficult as we are used to eating a beautiful green and smooth avocado, so if you serve up an avocado with black or a darker color, people think it's gone off - a lot of people have this perception and it's a barrier we need to get over."