The Chilean avocado export season began slower than last year, with shipments through September down 58% year-on-year at 18,580 metric tons (MT) compared to 44,519MT by the same time last year following a later than normal start to the harvests.
Exports to the Netherlands were 62% lower at 4,659MT, but to the U.S. they were only 33% lower at 10,560MT, as exporters focused more heavily on the North American market.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report said that in a normal year the Chilean avocado harvests start in June, but it said that this year growers had “strategically delayed” the harvest until July in order to avoid overlapping with Peru.
The Chilean Hass Avocado Committee has also previously said that the weather was a factor in the delayed harvests, with growers having to wait until increasingly later in the year for the fruit to reach the required 23% of dry matter.
Production of Hass, which represents 88% of the total avocado area planted, is forecast to rise by 9% year-on-year to 245,000MT.
The USDA report said that despite this anticipated growth, Hass producers face challenges as the trees are very sensitive to low temperatures, which may destroy an entire orchard. Another challenge is limited water availability, it said.
The problems with water availability have also driven a significant drop in planted hectarage over recent years, with the total figure for all avocado varieties having fallen from 36,388 hectares in 2011-12 to 29,166 hectares in 2018-19, according to Odepa data.
The data also shows that Chile exported a total of 157,697MT during the 2017-18 season, which was 4% higher year-on-year.
The Netherlands was the leading market (+16% year-on-year; 62,735MT), followed by the U.S. (+1%; 29,389MT), the U.K. (-2%; 16,874MT), Argentina (+3%; 15,031MT), and China (+12%; 14,578MT).