A severe oversupply of avocados in the European market over recent weeks has led to far lower prices than normal for this time of year.
Peru and South Africa - the EU's biggest suppliers during this period - have both sent far greater volumes to the market than last year, importers say.
"Today, we are between €4.00-€ 5.00 for a 4kg box, whereas last year we were at € 11.00-€ 13.00 per 4kg box," Evy van Gastel of Belgium-based Special Fruit told Fresh Fruit Portal. She noted, however, that those prices last year had been "exceptionally high."
"In June, traditionally, volumes from Peru and RSA clash which results in a lower price market. This year, RSA is having a bumper crop and Peru has a production increase of 20-25%."
Van Gastel said that instead of Peru spreading its huge volume over different markets, this year there has been a greater focus on Europe. So far, the South American country has only shipped around one-third of the volume to the U.S. that it had done by this time last year, she added.
"European consumption is on the rise but not in proportion to the volume that we have received so far. This is resulting in oversupply and extremely low prices," she said.
"We have been having this extreme situation for the last four weeks."
Ine Potting, global sourcing director at Dutch fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Scherpenhuizen, estimated total imported volumes were around 40-70% higher year-on-year.
"We knew before the summer that production would be a lot bigger in Peru and South Africa, but nobody predicted that it would be this much bigger," she said.
She explained avocado prices typically dipped during the summer in Europe and tended to recover around July and August, but this year the downward curve is steeper and sharper than in previous seasons
While prices remain low, Van Gastel said that suppliers and export data were indicating that a "very large volume" of Peruvian fruit was now being diverted to the U.S. to give the European market some breathing space.
"So in three weeks from now, the situation will be a bit different and hopefully price market will be able to restore itself."
In late May, South African Avocado Growers’ Association chairperson Athol Currie said the industry was on track to export 16-18 million cartons, which would be around 4 million more than last year.
The European market looks set to receive higher year-on-year volumes from a major supplier once Peru and South Africa wind down. The head of the Chilean Hass Avocado Committee recently said he expected the industry's production to rise this coming season.
“We expect to produce this season 245,000 metric tons (MT) of avocado, which would be 20,000MT more than last season. We think that the proportions will be the same – 30% for the domestic market and 70% for exports,” he said. The Chilean season typically gets underway around August.