South Africa: Avocado auction shows exorbitant demand for Maluma trees

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South Africa: Avocado auction shows exorbitant demand for Maluma trees

The first ever avocado tree auction in South African has yielded a completely unexpected result, with one buyer set to shell out almost 12 times the sales price for 500 Maluma trees. 

The variety - favored for its nutty flavor, larger size than Hass, smaller stone, high yields and faster ripening - is in short supply in South Africa, with licensor Allesbeste Nursery's waiting list stretching out for up to five years in the future.

In his presentation at the nursery's annual Maluma Day in Tzaneen today, founder Andre Ernst said Maluma now accounted for 13% of his tree sales - level with the popular greenskin cultivar Fuerte - and in the coming years it was expected to become more aligned with Hass in percentage terms.

To test the waters, Maluma consultant Thys Marais pitched the idea of an auction, but neither he nor auctioneer Deon Botha of Omniland could believe the result.

For two lots - each consisting of 250 trees - a single buyer won the auction with a bid of ZAR1120 (US$84.77) per tree for the first and ZAR1,200 (US$92.10) per tree for the second, which comes to a total of ZAR580,000 (US$43,870) for all the trees.

To put this figure in context, the normal price for a Maluma tree is ZAR94 (US$7).

"I thought it'd maybe in the area of ZAR300 (US$23) maybe – that I think is more realistic. This is a bit abnormal but I think the reason is there are guys looking for trees - they want to start in the Western and Eastern Cape," Marais told Fresh Fruit Portal.

"Now they must wait for three years to get tree, just to get a trial block going. It’s the quickest way they can buy trees, which is why the price is inflated a bit.

"I think if you look genetic material in the fruit industry is going to become much more important. Fruit is not just fruit anymore."

Marais' comments were echoed by Botha.

"This was the first [auction], and it was totally unexpected. I really thought it might go wild and stop around 300, and fetching 1120 for the second lot was totally amazing," he said.

"This type of auction is not the ordinary type of auction – this is the first avo auction in the country, I’m not sure about the world, but definitely around here."

The trees were secured by 'Group Editors' of Peter Moolman and Dr. Guy Witney.

Related story: South Africa: Maluma Day to challenge avocado sector's "convenient position"


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