Spain's largest avocado grower tests the waters of U.S. market

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Spain's largest avocado grower tests the waters of U.S. market

Spain's largest avocado producer, Trops, last week sent its first-ever shipment of the fruit to the U.S., despite market access being granted five years ago.

The producer organization exported trial volumes on Feb. 28 to New York, where they are expected to arrive at the end of the week.

The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) approved Spanish avocados for import in January 2014, but whereas many countries around the world are eager to build up volumes to the U.S once access for horticultural products is granted, a Trops representative said the organization had not felt much need to do so with such a strong market on its doorstep.

"Here in the European Union we have a good market for our fruit and our main market is this one, so it was simply for that reason [that we had not shipped to the U.S. before]," said Enrique Colilles, manager of Trops.

He explained that with production rising from its 2,800 or so growers based mainly in Malaga and Granada - Spain's top avocado-growing regions - the organization this year decided to test the waters in the U.S. market as part of its market diversification plan.

"They are not big quantities that we sent - they're so that we can get to know the market. If and when we have an increase in production, it's one market more for us," he said.

The company will likely carry out further shipments to the U.S. this Hass season, which began in late November and should run until early May.

Speaking about how conditions have been in the European market, Colilles said that although consumption has been rising the panorama has become more challenging recently due to greater competition.

"The prices in the markets are not as satisfactory as in previous years because there are more operators like Colombia. But it's a healthy sector that's growing and is not yet mature, and it works well for the companies that are efficient and competitive," he said.

Trops currently doesn't have any plans to export avocados to other markets. Colilles said that an export protocol is being negotiated for China, but he didn't expect that Spain would fare particularly well there.

"I don’t think we’d be competitive in China as it’s very far away, and countries like Peru and Chile will be more competitive. But in the U.S. we can be because the quality of our fruit is very high," he said.

In September last year an industry representative said Spain was expecting to produce around 70,000 metric tons (MT) of all varieties of avocados during the 2018-19 season, which would mark a 20% rise from last season.

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