Chilean Hass Avocado Committee forecasts export downgrade
The Chilean Hass Avocado Committee has forecast an 8% year-on-year fall in production of the fruit for the 2012-13 season, while shipments abroad are set to fall from last year's 116,000 metric tons (MT) to between 100,000-105,000MT. At www.freshfruitportal.com we catch up with committee president Adolfo Ochagavía to discuss Peru's forays into the U.S. and Chile's potential in several international markets.
Ochagavía says Peru has faced difficulties in moving volume in the North American market and its presence means Chile will have to enter later than usual.
"They [Peru] have to place a large production. More or less they estimate around 80,000MT between Hass and Verde, but making a dint in the U.S. market is definitely not a trivial matter," he says.
"They've sent their fruit but they've not found it easy. They have done some discounting, basically to make space in the market, and that's not easy."
He adds it is not as if Chile's decision to send later just occurred to the industry, given the price signals that have been seen with Peruvian, Californian and Mexican supply.
"If we want to settle good returns we have to start a little bit later.
"It is already being said that it will be normal for Chile to supply - with arrivals - from October to the start of April."
He highlights differences between Peruvian and Chilean avocado production.
"They have a reasonably good weather, availability of water and they have a much warmer climate, so the phytosanitary issues are different.
"I think ours is a good alternative for the [U.S.] market and it would be difficult to push it to the side."
He says avocado prices in Europe are falling as Peru has been diverting more supply to the old continent, so Chile will be taking a cautious approach to that market.
Growth market prospects
He expert says it would be no surprise that with its current prices the U.S. avocado market could grow, while in Europe there are many countries where the fruit if fairly unknown and seldom eaten.
"Germany is a market where we have been promoting for two years. Peru is doing it for the first time, so this will enhance [avocados in] Germany," he says.
"You read in some technical publications that the people prefer Hass, you go to the supermarkets and you find a greater supply of Hass in almost all of them.
"This marks a trend, and if you project and put a little bit of promotion from different origins, this should make people talk in the coming years."
He says the highest levels of avocado consumption per capita in Europe are found in Denmark and Sweden, followed by France.
"What happens is the number of inhabitants is lower, so the total absolute value of fruit sold isn't so high, but then take into account that you have Danes who consume approximately two kilos (4.4lbs) of avocados a year."
In Latin America, he highlights Argentina as an attractive market, which last season received 7,000MT of Chilean avocados. This year shipments to the Andean neighbor started early.
The industry is also working on a protocol to export to Brazil.
"We are doing the same with the South Africa protocol and with that we would be able to have two good markets."
The committee leader highlights Chile's avocado consumption has been growing, reaching 5kg (11lbs) per capita last year.
"The 2011-12 we estimated [the local market] to be around 45% and this year we calculate it could be 45% again.
"The Chilean market is the main individual market for the industry. It is a reality that the Chilean consumers like avocado, and in a scenario where disposable income increases the consumption rises.
"It's very good to have a functioning domestic market - it is a stabilizing issue for the industry."
Related Story: International Special Edition - Avocados from Chile