Mexico's countrywide avocado expansion could strengthen sector
The expansion of large-scale Mexican avocado production in states beyond the core region of Michoacán is likely to reinforce the country's position as the leading exporter of the fruit to the U.S. despite growing competition from Chile, Peru and other Latin American nations.
This is the view of major Michoacán-based avocado grower-export Arsaz & Fruit, who sees the emerge of Jalisco in particular, as well as regions such as Morelos and Nayarit, as strengthening Mexico’s hand internationally.
Despite predicted export growth, Mexico endured a volatile 2021-22 season, with a temporary ban on Mexican avocado imports to the U.S. in February 2022 after an anonymous threat to a U.S. plant safety inspector provoking a rise in prices. The situation was not helped by June hail damage to almost 5,000 acres in Michoacán’s Uruapan province.
According to Arianna Sánchez, commercial director of Arsaz & Fruit, the unseasonal hail in Uruapan was illustrative of the increasing impact of sudden, unexpected weather events as a result of climate change, which are affecting growers in the region.
“We’ve seen storms recently and they are not mild storms; on the contrary, they are increasingly aggressive,” said Sánchez.
“Over the last two years, we have seen more evidence of climate change, and not just for avocados, but also for berries. The seasons have moved; they are not the same times of year that we had traditionally. So there’s has definitely been a change and we have definitely been affected.”
A further factor impacting Michoacán’s growers is South American competition from countries such as Peru and Chile. Such countries are not only major avocado producers, they also in general benefit from more secure environments for growers and customers alike, he said.
“These countries have significant production and the same Mexican companies are going to these countries to open businesses,” explained Sánchez. “If we are have climate problems, they know they can produce in these countries which have more temperate climates.
“From the point of view of the customer, when there are road blockades or other security questions in Michoacán, they might view it as easier to buy from another country that doesn’t have these problems.”
But although this might sound pessimistic, Sánchez said the potential offered by other avocado producing regions in Mexico offered real cause for optimism.
“In Mexico, we have possibilities to exploit other regions for production, not just Michoacán,” she said. “Jalisco is looking very interesting and from what we have seen it has the same level of quality as Michoacán.
"With the opening of Jalisco, we are also going to see other states entering into avocado production, which are going to reinforce production volumes for the country as a whole.”
Sanchez predicts the likely emergence of the central regions of Puebla and Morelos as significant producers in the coming seasons, as well as the western, coastal state of Nayarit. “I think the entry of these other states will be very good for Mexico and will make us even more competitive,” she continued.
“The growth of the Mexican avocado industry isn’t just centered on Michoacán, it’s going to take place at a national level. With Jalisco getting ready to export, that is going to offer a competitive advantage for Michoacán. Jalisco has a lot of certifications for the United States that Michoacán doesn’t have. And that is going to make us as a sector more competitive.”
According to the USDA, the value of avocados imported from Mexico rose by 25% in 2021 from a year before and up 57% from 2016 to $2.78 billion.
Accounting for approximately 74% of the 2.4 million tons produced during the 2019-20 season and with 26,740 registered growers, Michoacán remains Mexico’s leading avocado production region, data from the National Institute of Agricultural Investigations (INIFAP) indicated.
Figures from the Agricultural & Fisheries Information Service (SIAP) in 2020 again showed Michoacán in the lead with 166,063 ha, followed by Jalisco at 20,920 ha and Mexico State at 9,930 ha.