This has been the most difficult year in recent times for avocado supply. Global demand for the fruit is increasing at an estimated 30% a year, whilst UK consumption is growing even more rapidly, at around 35% a year
Despite this huge surge in demand, global production is only growing annually at around 3%, creating a notable supply gap at times.
As more nations catch on to the perceived health benefits of avocados, new markets are emerging and developing, including China, with which Chile recently agreed a 10,000 tonne export deal. Fruit otherwise destined for Europe is therefore being sent to China between September and November of this year for the first time ever.
In addition, domestic demand is soaring within almost all producing nations.
Climatic conditions such as frost, hail, drought, winds and the El Niño climate cycle continue to cause crop shortages and skew seasonal timings across almost all producing countries.
In short, the situation is a perfect storm, making sourcing good quality fruit all year round an extremely difficult task. However, as Reynolds is committed to a consistent supply for its customers, working with the right supply partners is crucial.
Critically, these partners are experts in their field; they are investing in their own orchards and infrastructure, they are reliable and, most important, they have a broad spread of geographical interest to cover all bases.
As we move into autumn, we are entering a period of very tight availability for avocados. Exports will have all but dried up from Peru and South Africa, on the back of poor harvests from both countries.
Meanwhile Chile, which generally has almost exclusive supply to Europe during the northern hemisphere autumn, is off to a slow start this season. This short market will necessitate the unusual step of procuring additional volumes of fruit from the Jalisco region of Mexico.
Israel and Spain will begin harvesting fruit in December but, and even though Spain is predicting a good harvest, these sources will both be supplying a very short and bullish market.
Looking forward to spring 2017, even greater market shortages are highly likely once Spanish and Israeli harvests start to wind down in early March. This period, likely to last until May when South African and Peruvian volumes are sufficient, has always been difficult to manage.
Weak exchange rates will worsen the inflationary pressure from all countries of origin. Exploring opportunities with emerging grower nations, such as Colombia, Morocco, Egypt and Kenya is therefore an inevitable consequence.
The stage is therefore set for 2017 to be the trickiest ever for the avocado market.
Sandra Kajda is category buyer for fruit at foodservice supply specialist Reynolds, which supplies over 1,000 different fresh produce varieties to chefs, restaurants and caterers nationwide.