Colombia: Avocado industry steps up efforts for U.S. market access this year
The Colombian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Aurelio Iragorri made the announcement during a visit to a Hass avocado packing facility in the northwestern department of Antioquia.
Iragorri was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker on the visit.
"Thanks to the free trade agreement Colombia already has access for 80 of its agricultural products. If product number 81 is the avocado, it would be like winning the lottery, because the U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of the fruit," Iragorri said.
The head of Colombian agriculture also said that avocado-producing regions in the country are being established that meet the U.S. market's phytosanitary requirements.
"If we achieve avocado access to the U.S., we will multiply the production area in the country," Iragorri said.
"In 2008 we have 4,280 hectares and now we have 9,500 hectares, while production has shot up to 42,500 metric tons (MT) from 18,000MT in 2008.
"So we can see the avocados have a big future and will positively affect the department of Antioquia, the Coffee Triangle region, and areas that have been depraved by violence like Cauca, Caqueta and Huila, where very high quality avocados are produced."
In Colombia, 38% of planted avocado hectarage is made up of the Hass variety, but Hass constitutes around 90% of production in the four departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío.
The popularity of Hass is growing rapidly; while production of all avocado varieties has grown by around 38% over the last five years, Hass production has grown by 126%.
In addition, the National Avocado Council has been working on strategic planning initiatives for new Hass production areas, given the big future expectations in international markets.
At the international level, Iragorri said that the consumption growth was not limited to the U.S., but also includes places like Europe too, where he said consumption of tropical products like mango, pineapple and avocados has risen almost 10% in the last 15 years.
During the 2013/14 season, 67 containers of Hass avocado were exported to international markets. In the 2014/15 campaign, this figure is expected to reach 152 containers, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.