Reduced SA avocado crop struggles to meet E.U. demand

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Reduced SA avocado crop struggles to meet E.U. demand

The South African Avocado Growers' Association (SAAGA) expects exports to fall by around three million cartons this season due to hail damage, while European demand continues to rise.

SAAGA chief executive Derek Donkin told the weather problems in late-2010 cut back the country's export crop from 10.5 million cartons to an expected range of 7.5 million to 8 million cartons.

"Total production this year is expected to be in the region of 65,000 metric tonnes. 2011 is an “off-season”, so a smaller crop was expected, compared to 2010’s 12 million-carton export crop," he says.

"The most pressing problem for growers this season is rising demand coupled to a reduced crop. Growers would like to have been in a position to supply greater volumes under these conditions.

"The U.K., the Netherlands and France are big markets for South Africa, plus Scandinavia, Spain, Germany and others. SAAGA does not have accurate information on growth in the various E.U. countries, however we do know that there is growth in France and exporters report good growth in Scandinavia."

He says the Fuerte variety remains the most popular greenskin avocado, although the majority of new greenskin plantations in South Africa are Pinkerton.

"There are currently no industry-wide initiatives to develop new cultivars, but individual companies within the industry are busy with cultivar development and testing."

He says the high demand for avocadoes in Europe means there is enough space for many competitors.

"The avocado season varies depending on hemisphere, resulting in the availability of avocados all year to Europe and the U.K., as does yield from each country. Therefore it is important to keep up with demand, which means that there is plenty of room in the market for all countries."

SAAGA has been involved in funding research to address pest and disease management, harvesting, handling and storage, while also providing market research to growers and pushing for access into new markets.

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