EU avocado buyers analyzed rapid growth of Colombia Hass industry

October 23 , 2018

A delegation of buyers from the European Union recently traveled to Colombia to experience the industry firsthand and learn about the potential and characteristics of the booming sector.

The Colombian avocado industry is undergoing rapid growth, in part due to a favorable climate that allows for year-round production and also because a large number of coffee bean growers have been converting their farms avocado orchards.

Hass exports during the first few months of the year alone reached more than 18,000 metric tons (MT), according to figures from the National Statistics Department.

The cultivated area of Hass has grown to 126% to 16,000 hectares over the last five years, as the industry seeks to fill a space in the international market. In doing so, it faces a series of challenges and opportunities.

To view our photo gallery from the visit, click here.

Key topics addressed during the EU buyers mission, which took place at the end of September, were fruit quality, phytosanitary issues, market access arrangements, and crop management.

The delegation visited five avocado production regions - beginning in Cali and ending in the capital Bogotá - to analyze the potential of the sector as a major global supplier of the fruit.

Over five days, representatives of 15 companies from nations such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain met with important players of the Colombian avocado industry, including those involved in nurseries, orchards, packhouses, exporters and trade associations.

The trip was organized by the Netherlands-based Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI), trade promotion agency ProColombia, Colombia’s National Trade Association (Analdex), industry association CorpoHass and CSR Netherlands.

During the visit, Mónica Vismara, purchasing manager of Italy-based importer-distributor McGarlet, told Fresh Fruit Portal that the mission was very well-organized and that the activities were interesting.

"I believe that this mission is very important for avocado producers to get to know the point of view of European importers and to understand what the market is really asking for," said Vismara.

"It’s important that they understand the value of certifications, having clean fruit, and the relevance of calibers, which can only be understood by talking face-to-face with importers."

Sudhir Mehta, commercial director at U.K.-based exotic fruit supplier Minor Weir Willis, added: "I think the mission is a good idea so that European importers can understand the capacity that Colombia has today and what it could have in the future."

"I think a lot of people do not realize the potential that certain areas have for avocados. This [trip] increases awareness and I think it is good that there is a lot of interest in promoting Colombia," he said.

Evy Van Gastel, product manager of European importer Special Fruits, explained that there are different areas the industry should work on, such as infrastructure, cooling facilities inside packhouses and issues with lenticels.

"It was a very interactive week with importers, exporters, stakeholders and logistics providers where we were able to speak very openly and honestly about what we saw, and I think that is very constructive," Van Gastel said.

"We did not come to criticize, but rather with ideas and ways of how the industry can improve."

Stay tuned for further coverage of the EU buyers mission to Colombia.

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