Where is Ecuador's budding avocado sector exporting its fruit?
Demand worldwide for avocados may be insatiable, yet in a South American country where the crop is endemic and a strong fruit export industry is long-established, there is barely any Hass avocado export sector to speak of. That country is Ecuador, and yesterday we looked at how the sector is evolving and the production that is set to come on-line. Today, we take that one step further to discuss the nation's incipient exports.
Corpoaguacate president Jorge Altuna says while there hasn't exactly been an explosion of new plantings in the more export-oriented Hass avocado variety, attributing this to low volume to date and "intermittent" quality.
Without consistency of quality it is difficult to offer export markets the continuity of supply they require, but Altuna believes this can be achieved through growers joining forces with his representative organization.
Corpoaguacate currently has 25 members and is in the process of getting more growers on board, establishing standards and getting a better gauge of plantings and production nationwide.
But the group's biggest achievement to date, following several attempts in previous years, has been the sector's first Hass exports this season, which runs from January to mid-July.
"We managed to send 50 [metric] tons (MT) to France and Hong Kong via airfreight this year between January and April, and additionally from late April to mid-July we have been sending fruit weekly to the Netherlands, where we estimate there'll be 300MT," he said.
"We have had very good customer comments. They have liked the fruit a lot and ask for more, but unfortunately we haven't been able to meet the international volume demands yet.
He says there will be around 1,000MT of Hass produced this year, but taking into account the majority of fields are young the future is auspicious and volume ought to rise significantly from this level over the next five years.
"We have the advantage of being able to grow almost year-round in different areas, and some of them have a great incidence of solar radiation," he says.
"Within the same area there are temperature variations between day and night, which allows the plant to be in flowering all the time. Also, we have crops from zero to 2,000 meters (6,561ft) above sea level."
He adds one area with particularly good growing conditions is the Santa Elena peninsula close to the border with Peru.
"Our mission now is to invest in grading plants and to massify the crop. I think the Santa Elena peninsula will see a boom in the crop soon and we expect there will be a lot of investments in the area," he says.