Peru could 'easily double' U.S. avocado volumes in 2012, says expert

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Peru could 'easily double' U.S. avocado volumes in 2012, says expert

A Peruvian avocado expert says the industry could easily double its U.S.-bound exports this year, but will probably wait until Californian supply clears up before sending significant volumes.

La Molina Agricultural University professor Guillermo Parodi tells the opening of the U.S. market is an attractive proposition for exporters, but they need to avoid flooding the market.

"It's a rapidly growing industry - in 2011 Peru exported a volume of 80,500 metric tons (MT) around the world with an FOB (freight on board) value of US$164.5 million, and you compare that to 2010 when the value of exports was a total of US$84 million," he says.

"I think it’s possible our exports this year will be much more than US$200 million - it's hard to say what figure exactly but our conditions are very good this year out in the fields and I think prices will stay stable and perhaps grow, with an average somewhere between US$1.50-1.90 a kilo.

"In the U.S. we are the first from the Southern Hemisphere to get there, in a window when Californian production is winding down and Mexico isn’t there anymore. We will be harvesting at the end of April, sending small volumes through May and June, and building up the rhythm before shipping large amounts between June and July."

Parodi says the reasoning behind the strategy is to avoid oversupply in the market and to get better prices.

"Now we have the new market opened to us with the U.S. which is a great opportunity for Peru, especially in the south of the country, as a market where consumers have a good understanding of Hass avocados and consume a lot of them," he adds.

"As the last one wasn’t a full season and we just started in the U.S., we should be able to double our exports there without difficulty."

Peru's largest market at the moment is Europe, which has become a challenge for key suppliers to the market such as South Africa. Last season, South African avocado exporters were relieved when Peru gained access to the U.S. without cold treatment, which took some weight of of Europe.

However, the U.S. opening and efforts in Asia do not mean Peru is shifting its focus away from Europe.

"Europe is very significant for us and will continue to be, that's for sure, but you don't want congestion there, and we do converge with other exporters like South Africa in the market.

"Peru also has a lot of interest in Asia, which we envision as the third big market in the future, but there are different tastes, different customs, there’s not the same interest, so we have to wait and see how that goes.

"We’re mainly looking at Korea, China and Taiwan, and are particularly interested in Japan, however we have to see how the topic of quarantine goes as negotiations are still taking place - if we could end up with 10% of Asia consuming at least some avocados, we would be going quite well."

Production improvements

Parodi's research at the university involves forming a strategic plan for Peru's avocado industry, while he also conducts professional workshops for the Peruvian Agri Institute in Lambayeque for farmers interested in the crop.

Parodi notes that the amount of enquiry for more Hass avocado planting is 'notable' at the moment.

"Peru already has a strong focus on horticultural production, especially in asparagus, but asparagus farms have reached their high levels of production and there are many growers who are switching to avocados and other fruits.

"Peru has increased its planting on the coastal areas with a lot of investment from Lambayeque through to Arequipa, with the main Hass areas being Lambayeque itself, Libertad, Ica, Lima and Ancash.

"Along the coast there is better irrigation and unlike Chile at the moment we have experienced a year of rain, and that is good for production.

"We are going to become an important player in the world of avocado producers, but we do need to have strategic plans to develop the avocado industry so it can reach its potential."

He says strategic planning is following four main principles:

1.       Genetic components - getting the right plant matter, the roots, the genetics, so that Peru can have the best avocadoes that are best suited to the regions where they grow.

2.       Orchard management - improving nutrition, water usage, pruning techniques and getting better fruit set and fruit formation.

3.       Health issues - plant health issues come with their own complexity and you have to manage ways to make the fruit healthier, so that involves looking for alternatives that use less chemicals and are more ecological

4.       Harvest and postharvest - this is what will define the industry and how Peru’s avocadoes are perceived around the world, so it’s very important to have these processes that ensure quality.

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