Despite unseasonable weather, South Africa is forecast to export around the same volumes of avocado as last season, according to industry forecasts. The export crop will reach 12.8m 4kg cartons, which is slightly more than last year’s 12.5m cartons. However, the crop could have been around 15m cartons if it was not for a severe drought and also hail damage in some production regions in the northeast parts of the country. This drought and hail has turned what was expected to be an ‘on-year’ in production terms into an average crop.
Despite this, Subtrop’s Derek Donkin says the industry is confident that it will still meet the expectations of customers. “Our first fruit has landed in strong markets in Europe and we are confident that we will do well this year. It is still very early, however, and much will still unfold before the end of the season.”
Donkin paints a picture of growth for the South African avocado sector, with demand in most markets continuing to rise and the possibility of new markets being opened up, which will encourage a further boost in production. “The last few years the industry has added an additional 500 hectares of new plantings each year and by the end of the year we will stand on a total area of 16,000 hectares,” he comments.
The South Africans are advancing discussions for the opening up of the US, Chinese and Japanese markets for South African avocados. “Although this is a slow process, it is no longer a pipe-dream that we will get access to these countries, particularly Japan and the US. When this will happen? Only the brave will speculate,” he says.
He also noted that the South African avocado industry is in a good position because it also has a fast-growing local market. “South Africans are now expecting to have access to avocados all year round and this means that our growers can also extend the season by opening new late areas of production.”
Sharing the optimism is Westfalia’s Zach Baard, who says that although some growers have suffered from adverse weather, it is not a disaster for the industry: “In March we also had good rains on the Westfalia Estate and our dams are full. We therefore start the season in a confident mood!”
Baard outlines that although the South African crop is vital to Westfalia’s success, the company’s ability to supply international customers all year round is crucial to its marketing strategy. “This year market conditions are good as we enter virtually empty markets. The significant market development work which has been done over so many years is paying off and we expect demand to continue to rise for some years to come.”