British delegation to seek out Dominican Republic avocado suppliers
It could be a matter of weeks before a new supply deal between the Dominican Republic and Britain sees significant volumes of Caribbean avocado varieties en route to the U.K. market.
The delegation is being organized by Ambassador Federico Cuello Camilo on behalf of Dominican Republic’s Minister of Agriculture Angelo Estevez, who has been brokering the supply deal.
Camilo says a supply meets demand in the case of strong British demand for the fruit and the Caribbean island's production potential.
"Now it is a question of having the two meet, and then agree on a deal that can then go forward," he says.
“Interestingly, we have been able to grow a number of avocado varieties in the Dominican Republic which will be a major innovation for the U.K., because it’s mostly Hass in the U.K., which are very good, but expensive, small and not really that good value for money.
“The sheer size of avocados, and all of the different varieties that there are in the Dominican Republic, will bring interesting developments because probably for the same price of Hass, people can have more than twice the volume. I mean they are huge, I couldn’t believe it when I first saw them. They taste great and are certainly large enough to feed the family."
Camilo says the potential for trade has opened up after the Dominican sector has made major improvements in growing practices and meeting the stringent supply standards of the U.K. and Europe.
He adds that 90% of avocado producers already have GlobalG.A.P certification and would be ready to start supplying significant volumes on a long-term basis.
"I was originally asked to find suppliers and I went to the Dominican Republic to meet the avocado growers who are very well organized."
“Because of a scare they had with the US market about a year and a half ago, the sector has significantly improved. Arbitrarily, the Dominican Republic faced an import prohibition in the U.S.
"There was a problem with another crop, but not avocados, and a blackout prohibition was imposed which obviously included avocados."
He says grower-exporters have learned their lesson from that incident, and estimated 90% of supply was already compliant with European standards - GlobalG.A.P. in particular.
"Some of them are even able to meet stricter standards and the remaining 10% is well underway to meeting it," he says.
He says the country's suppliers have avocados at a time of year, from April to June, when the rest of the world has very few avocados.
"So we have a window there to supply the U.K. market almost exclusively," he claims.
"In my experience, U.K. importers, especially at this very high level, are demanding importers, and are people who look for a long-term relationships.
"They want to engage in something that gives them reliability in terms of delivery times and meeting deadlines, but especially the compliance with standards."
A supply deal would allow for both airfreight and seafreight exports.
"Those planes land [in the Dominican Republic] with lots of tourists on board and then come back packed with avocados, mango and so on. And then, because of refrigeration techniques that some of my suppliers have developed, they can also send by vessel," he says.
Camilo says the north of the Dominican Republic is connected to Portsmouth and the south is connected to London Gateway by sea and the transit time is around nine days or less.