With a reported grower return of around six times that of oranges, avocado is becoming an increasingly popular item for Chinese growers and consumers.
Demand for the fruit has increased some 28 per cent year on year, with imports totalling 32,100 tonnes in 2017, up from just 31.8 tonnes in 2011 according to customs data.
The Global Times reported that this number is predicted to reach 50,000 tonnes in 2018. By contrast, China only produced around 2,000 tonnes of supply domestically in 2017.
"I think that China's homegrown avocado could gradually replace imported fruit from the 'big three' in the next three to five years as mass production catches up,” said Zhang Songming, CEO of Hainan-based avocado nursery, ForAvo Agriculture Co.
“We were not prepared for the sudden rise of avocado demand, but we have large planting areas. Once we're prepared [in technology], no one can defeat us,” he said.
Growing techniques are an area that China is lacking in in the race for avocado supply. Because the fruit is not a local item, there’s little information for farmers on how to find the right seedling and successfully cultivate a crop. Many Chinese agricultural firms now look to import a complete package of technologies from foreign companies.
Adding to that, because of the time it takes for avocado plantings to mature and bear fruit, Latin American importers are at an advantage gaining market share. However, price and proximity are said to be pull factors for domestic fruit in future.
Zhu Yi, associate professor at China Agricultural University in Beijing told The Global Times that Chinese-grown avocado also has the advantage of geographic proximity and can be picked closer to maturity rivalling taste, quality and price.
“The cost for delivering homegrown avocados to the consumers' doorstep is much lower than the Latin American avocados. China's labour cost is also much cheaper… If consumers could buy an avocado at RMB5, why would they continue to buy the RMB10 Latin American fruit?” Zhu said.
Consumers at a local supermarket in Beijing who spoke with The Global Times said they had had trouble with immature imported avocado and would like to try a soft and waxy Chinese-grown fruit.