The first ever shipment of Colombian avocados to the US departed from the port of Cartagena on 2 November, little more than two months after the US Department of Agriculture gave the official green light for imports.
Colombian Minister of Agriculture Juan Zuluaga was among the dignatories who attended a special ceremony at the port to mark the inaugural shipment.
The 11-tonne of consignment of Hass avocados, produced by Westsole Fruit Colombia (WFC) in Guarne, east of Antioquia, is heading for Long Beach Port in California, where it will be received by Westfalia Fruit's North American operation based in Camarillo and distributed to local retailers.
The packaging and dispatch process was overseen by officials from the Colombian Agri-fisheries Institute (ICA) to ensure it complied with the regulations set out by the US authorities.
WFC, the operation co-owned by Westfalia Fruit and its Chilean partner, Exportadora Subsole, was one of the first organisations to recognise Colombia's potential as a new avocado origin and has played a pivotal role in establishing the industry, bringing specialist technical expertise in production, logistics, cooling and packing as well as top-grade plant material.
The company began exporting avocados to Europe in 2012 and during the 2016/17 export season it shipped more than 1m 4kg cartons.
"We managed to overcome the teething issues involved in getting GlobalGAP in palce and working out effective management programmes tailored to our unique Colombian conditions," said WFC's general manager Pedro Aguilar, adding that the company packs only 100 per cent export-quality, Category 1 fruit and is determined to changed outdated perceptions about the Colombian avocado industry.
"We follow the best possible agricultural and manufacturing practices, focusing on fruit quality and on doing things right, from our nurseries to our farms, from packing and shipping to our marketing practices."
Colombian Hass avocados can be harvested almost year-round and country's location puts the country within easy reach of most major markets.
"This will be of particular benefit to American retailers as it adds geographic spread to their sourcing plans to improve availability and customer offer," WFC said.
"Additionally, it benefits consumers by giving them access to great tasting, quality fruit that meets high standards in social and environmental responsibility as well as in good agricultural practices."
According to the Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Colombia’s avocado exports increased from US$171,000 in 2011 to more than US$35m in 2016 and exports could double as a result of the opening of the US market.