Headline photo: Guayal SA
The man who brought Hass avocados to Argentina in the 80s is revamping his fields with more trees per hectare and the more productive Dusa rootstock currently in quarantine awaiting release.
Horacio Frias of Guayal SA is the largest grower in a country that isn’t particularly well-known for its avocados, producing on 220 hectares in the northwestern province of Tucumán, incidentally the world’s top lemon-exporting region.
“We produce for the domestic market and we also export to Europe; to France, England and a bit to Spain,” Frias told PBUK during the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Connections: Chile event last week in Santiago.
“But our biggest competitive advantages are in the development of the domestic market – we are totally convinced that success in this business is in consumer satisfaction.”
He says while avocado consumption per capita is still very low compared to neighbouring Chile (where 26,391 hectares of avocado trees are planted), it has “quadrupled” in recent years.
“We are dedicated with a lot of intensity to make sure product quality is excellent, so that every time someone consumes the fruit they want to buy avocados again within four days,” Frias says.
“People around the world are looking for very healthy food, and of the healthy foods avocados are the tastiest.”
In a bid to meet growing demand Frias is working towards greater productivity in his orchards, but structures need to be controlled as the fertile soils and good climate mean the trees and branches grow “with barbarity”.
“We have trees that are 30 years’ old and those were planted 10m x 10m. They are being replaced by trees on 7m x 3.45m, or 414 trees per hectare,” he says.
“There is a rejuvenation of orchards, and all the new plantings are with clones – we have had the representation of Robert Brokaw in the United States so that we develop the variety Dusa for rootstocks.
“We have it in quarantine, and at the end of the year we’ll start to liberate the quarantine to start commercial production of this variety which is very good.”
Tucumán is closer (although still 890km) to the Chilean avocado-growing heartland of Quillota than Lima, but the different climate on the other side of the Andes means the season is more akin to Peru’s in timing.
“We start harvesting in mid-May and we harvest until mid-to-late August,” says Frias.
“We are absolutely complementary with Chile. When Chile finishes starts, and when Chile starts we finish; the same as Peru.
“We have great admiration for the Chilean grower for their strength, how they put their hands into it, for their capacity to overcome adversities and keep going forward. When you fly over and see the hills all planted you think, ‘how wonderful!’.”