Partly connected to the recent dramatic growth in the global avocado market, avocado cultivation is now considered to be the most promising segment for development in Israel’s horticulture sector.
Avocado production in 2016 stood at approximately 110,000-120,000 tonnes, with about half of that volume being exported. Preliminary figures for 2017 put production at 122,000 tonnes, the highest volume since 1986.
The three main production areas in Israel are the Coastal Plain, Galilee (Western, Upper and Lower) and the Jordan Valley. Area under cultivation stood at 8,500ha last year, including 1,500ha of young trees yet to bear fruit.
Between 450ha and 650ha are planted every year, although one restriction to expansion will be the shortage of planting material predicted up until 2020.
In terms of varieties, Hass leads production in Israel, accounting for a third of the planted area, while Ettinger and Pinkerton represent 27 and 15 per cent respectively.
Varietal improvement can take up to 15 years, and three newer varieties are slowly coming into production: the Hass-like Lavi, the local market-focused Galil and Arad.
Long-term estimates suggest that, by 2030, Israel will have 12,000ha dedicated to avocados, producing around 230,000 tonnes a year.
Nevertheless, Eitan Zvi, marketing manager at Galilee Exports, anticipates that volumes for 2017/18 will be slightly down on the last campaign.
Over the last three seasons, 80 per cent of the quantity exported has been to the EU and 15 per cent to Russia. Although 12 Israeli companies export avocados, around 90 per cent of exports are handled by just two exporters, Mehadrin (30,000 tonnes) and Galilee Exports (28,500 tonnes). Both Companies are looking eastwards to develop new markets, including to China and Japan.
In terms of research and development, efforts are currently being made in Israel to lessen the effect of alternate bearing. Meanwhile, since the growth of the “ripe and ready” segment, the benefits of Hass, which changes colour when ripe, are becoming increasingly evident, with green varieties tending to be squeezed up to six times before being purchased, according to research.