It could be a matter of weeks before a new supply deal between the Dominican Republic and Britain sees significant volumes of Caribbean avocado varieties en route to the UK market.
As the huge UK consumer demand for avocado shows no sign of waning, a trade mission of UK importers will soon visit the Dominican Republic to meet growers and check out avocado alternatives.
The delegation is being organised by Ambassador Federico Cuello Camilo on behalf of Dominican Republic’s Minister of Agriculture Angelo Estevez who have been brokering the supply deal.
Speaking with Produce Business UK, Camilo explains how this would be a game-changer both sides of the Atlantic.
“We have confirmed that there is a supply matching the demand. Now it is a question of having the two meet, and then agree on a deal that can then go forward,” he tells PBUK.
“Interestingly, we have been able to grow a number of avocado varieties in the Dominican Republic which will be a major innovation for the UK, because it’s mostly Hass in the UK, which are very good, but expensive, small and not really that good value for money.
“The sheer size of avocados, and all of the different varieties that there are in the Dominican Republic, will bring interesting developments because probably for the same price of Hass, people can have more than twice the volume. I mean they are huge, I couldn’t believe it when I first saw them. They taste great and are certainly large enough to feed the family.
Camilo says the potential for trade has opened up after the Dominican sector has made major improvements in growing practises and meeting the stringent supply standards of the UK and Europe. He says that 90% of avocado producers already have GlobalG.A.P certification and would be ready to start supplying significant volumes on a long-term basis.
“I was originally asked to find suppliers and I went to the Dominican Republic to meet the avocado growers who are very well organised.
“Because of a scare they had with the US market about a year and a half ago, the sector has significantly improved. Arbitrarily, the Dominican Republic faced an import prohibition in the US. There was a problem with another crop, but not avocados, and a blackout prohibition was imposed which obviously included avocados. They (grower exporters) learned the lesson and I would say that 90 percent of Dominican supply is already compliant with European standards, GlobalG.A.P in particular. Some of them are even able to meet stricter standards and the remaining 10 percent is well underway to meeting it.
That means the Dominican Republic is ready to meet the request from UK buyers. Why are UK buyers wanting Dominican supply? Because Dominican suppliers have avocados at a time of the year (April, May, June) when the rest of the world has very few avocados, so we have a window there to supply the UK market almost exclusively.”
The UK mission will be visiting the Caribbean nation in the coming weeks and Camilo is hopeful a supply deal will be on the table ready for this season, beginning around April.
“In my experience, UK importers, especially at this very high level, are demanding importers, and are people who look for a long-term relationships. They want to engage in something that gives them reliability in terms of delivery times and meeting deadlines, but especially the compliance with standards. The fact that the vast majority of Dominican export capacity of avocados already meets GlobalG.A.P is a clear signal that we are serious when it comes to meeting the very high standards of the UK market.
“There are other advantages that we have in the Dominican Republic; we can supply avocados to the UK daily by plane because of the well-established tourism connections. Those planes land with lots of tourists on board and then come back packed with avocados, mango and so on. And then, because of refrigeration techniques that some of my suppliers have developed, they can also send by vessel.”
The north of the Dominican Republic is connected to Portsmouth and the south is connected to London Gateway by sea and the transit time is around nine days or less, according to Camilo.
“It’s an excellent transit time and we can reach the UK by both means, sea and air, and that ensures an additional reliability which is very important. Maintaining the supply is absolutely crucial and we can do that.
“The deal requires that I now take a mission from the UK, including importers, to the Dominican Republic, and that will happen soon.
“The Minister of Agriculture, Angel Estevez, was the one who delivered the message to producers following the unfortunate situation with the prohibition in the US. He told them they had to meet European standards’ so that this doesn’t happen again. Otherwise, you end up without the possibility of exporting to a major market and you must have the capacity to switch – now this has been achieved, it’s my job to ensure that it actually happens.”