Colombia: Major avocado packhouse upgrade to aid 'booming' industry -

Colombia: Major avocado packhouse upgrade to aid 'booming' industry

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Colombia: Major avocado packhouse upgrade to aid 'booming' industry

A Colombian company has made a multimillion dollar investment to upgrade and expand its avocado packhouse and cold storage facility, providing a much-needed service to growers in the rapidly-growing industry. img_0788

Frutales Las Lajas spent US$2.5 million improving its plant, which the owners say is necessary given the recent boom in avocado production and the relative lack of facilities to pack and ship fruit.

As part of the The Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) buyer mission to the South American country, company assistant manager Gaviria Arévalo told the investment would greatly boost capacity.

"This investment is a response to the global boom in Hass avocado consumption and demand, which I think is always going to be unsatisfied due to new healthy eating trends," he said.

"This boom also reached Colombia, and for the last four or five years a lot of avocados have been planted."

The country now has around 14,000 hectares of avocado farms, and exports from 2010 to 2015 grew by more than 150%, leading avocados to become the most exported fresh fruit from Colombia, according to the National Department of Statistics (DANE).

The SIPPO buyer mission delegation

The SIPPO buyer mission delegation

But while production has skyrocketed, Gaviria says there are still not enough installations growers can use to pack and ship their fruit.

"We had a small dual-purpose machine which we used to process Tahiti limes and Hass avocados," he said.

"While at first there were no problems as there wasn't too much production, last year it rose a lot and we expect it to continue growing as there are more areas coming into production."

After the machine spent a while running at full capacity in the second half of 2015, Gaviria decided that it was time for an upgrade.

The new machine works 10-times faster, and can process 40 metric tons (MT) of fruit per hour. The old machine is now used solely for the limes.

"This investment doesn't just help us, but also the companies to whom we lend our packing services, who were the ones that last season made us realize we needed to expand," he said.

Frutales Las Lajas, which owns 200 hectares of Hass plantations, is now seeking out other sources of avocados to buy in order to boost its export programs.

Gaviria believes the company's work improving its packing and storage facilities, which will see a doubling of floor space to 12,000 square meters, is the biggest project of its kind in the country.

He added that future market access to the U.S. and potential export protocols were taken into account when planning the expansion works.

A truck driver strike delayed construction by a few weeks, but Gaviria expects the new packing machine to be up and running by the end of October and the numerous cold storage rooms operations by December.


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