South Africa expects record avocado exports in 2018
Subtrop CEO Derek Donkin attributed the rise to better growing conditions, an 'on-year' and new plantings coming into production.
"Last year’s crop was small as a result of the drought that we had been experiencing in the production areas," he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
"That drought was broken in November/December 2016 but the fruit had already set so there was quite an effect on that."
The country's two main growing regions are the northeastern provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. There is also production in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern and Western Capes - the latter of which has been hit hardest by the drought.
"This would be the biggest crop in terms of exports if we reach that 66,000MT. I think we’ve recovered from a period of not-so-good crops because of the weather conditions, and on top of that we’ve got new plantings coming in," he said.
South Africa's total production is forecast at 125,000MT this year compared to 110,000MT last year.
The trend of upward growth is expected to continue over the coming years.
Donkin said the season had started well, with many packhouses in operation over the last three to four weeks. He added that "significant volumes" had already been exported in anticipation of the upcoming Peruvian deal.
"The South African industry is making use of the window prior to the arrival of Peruvian volumes to get some volumes into the market before that," he said.
Green-skinned shipments started with Fuerte, and Donkin expects Hass exports to ramp up around week 17.
Around 95% of volumes are shipped to Europe, with exports also going to the Middle East and other southern African countries.
Donkin noted negotiations to open the Chinese and U.S. markets were "moving forward" but that it was hard to determine when access might be granted.
Meanwhile, a representative of avocado export ZZ2 said there would be a good window in the European market in April and May.
"If you happen to get in now and you’re in before Peru then you’re all good and well. It can be a different story once Peru gets to the market," marketing manager Clive Garett said.
"There will be a bit of a shortage in Europe during May so I think there will be an opportunity for South Africa companies if they can get their product into the market by then."
He said prices in Europe seemed to be at similar levels to last year, but explained the stronger rand might eat into grower returns.
Garett said ZZ2 had so far been shipping both green-skinned and Maluma varieties and had recently started with the regular Hass.
He also noted there was a "very good vibe" in the South African avocado industry at the moment, with new markets expected to open up in the near future.
"Europe is still our most important market and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future as we see consumption in the EU increasing," he said.
"I think people are now taking it as virtually a staple part of their diet. Everyone wants it because of the health benefits and because of its versatility."