Peru now a "huge part" of Mission Produce's avocado sourcing for North America

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California-based avocado company Mission Produce has been investing heavily in avocado production in Peru, which it says now plays an important and stabilizing role in the North American market.

Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal at PMA Fresh Summit in Orlando, Florida, vice president of sales Brent Scattini said that with so much volume coming out of Mexico, supply diversification has become key for the industry.

Peru is now Mission Produce's most significant expansion area, he said. The country's season typically runs from around May through September, coming at a critical time when California supplies are winding down and Mexican volumes are low.

"Peru has become a huge part of what we've been doing from a sourcing perspective," he said.

"We’re looking at expanding in Peru, and looking at 'how can we get production earlier in the season and how can we remain in production later in the season?'

"The last two years the season in Peru has started a little bit late, so our ideal would be to find some areas that are a little more consistent in terms of their start timing, and then find some areas that we could maybe rely on to go well into September and maybe a little bit further."

One of the advantages Mission Produce can provide to its customers with Peruvian supply is market stability, he said, especially amid the volatility of Mexican supply over recent years.

"I think that we’re going to see as time goes on that we’re going to be looking to those places that allow us that stability. Obviously, we’re not going to go to a place that is a complicated county to work in, or that has labor issues," he said, adding the aspects like water supply and climate are also critical.

Colombia's potential

Speaking about another major South American avocado producer, Scattini said that Colombia has a "huge amount of potential".

The country is rapidly increasing production, and in August last year gained U.S. market access. Mission Produce, working with its Colombia-based partner, Cartama, was the first to bring in avocados to the new destination.

Scattini said that the country has an excellent climate for avocado production and could eventually be a year-round supplier to the U.S., but he explained that it would take some time to work through the regulatory issues stipulated by U.S. authorities.

"There are some phytosanitary and some certification issues for Colombia to get product into the U.S. that are going to take some time to get through," he said, noting that only a handful of growers were currently certified to export to the U.S.

Mission Produce is currently also working with Cartama to ship avocados to other markets like Europe and Canada.

The company is a sponsor of the World Avocado Congress to be held in Medellin in September next year, an event which Scattini hopes will foster industry growth and development.

"Still a long way to go" on global per-capita consumption

Although global avocado consumption has skyrocketed over recent years, Scattini highlighted that there is much work to be done on further boosting consumption around the world.

"We know that from a per-capita consumption perspective, on a global level we’ve still got a long way to go. There are a lot of countries that are very underdeveloped in terms of how much avocado they consume," he said.

"If we use Mexico as the gold standard in terms of how many pounds per person they’re eating there, most countries on the planet are far behind."

China is one of the key countries that Mission is targeting to boost avocado consumption. Through Mr Avocado  - a joint venture between  Mission, and China-based importer Lantao and fruit retail chain Pagoda - the company has already opened a ripening center in Shanghai and is about to open a second in Guangzhou.

Scattini explained that supplying ripe avocados was especially crucial in countries like China where the fruit is relatively new and consumers lack education about them.

However, he expected that avocado consumption would grow substantially in China over the coming years in large part simply thanks to greater availability, noting that there was an explosion in U.S. consumption after Mexico gained market access in the 1990s.

Europe is another region where he believes there is strong growth potential, but he noted that the distribution network and the way avocados are merchandised are different from the U.S., which presents some challenges.

But overall, the future of the global industry is undoubtedly positive.

"[The demand growth] is crazy phenomena," he said.

"The avocado toast trend in the U.S. is huge, and I think that the avocado is becoming more commonly used as a center-of-plate item than probably any other produce item that’s out there. It’s got its unique characteristics - its healthy, it’s got a mild creamy flavor that you can do a lot with. I think the potential is unbelievable."


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