A project is underway to pioneer commercial avocado production in India, amid expectations that a sizeable industry could eventually develop.
Harshit Godha will soon plant his first trees near to his hometown, where he says climatic conditions are similar to Israel.
India does not currently produce avocados on a commercial scale, but consumer appetite has been growing over recent years.
Godha told FreshFruitPortal.com the idea came about when he was studying in the UK for his business degree. There he developed a taste for avocados and started learning about them.
"That’s when my business instincts kicked in," he said, noting that it was particularly popular among millennials. "First world countries were on to it. I am betting that India will follow the trend."
Most information he had found suggested his hometown of Bhopal in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh was not suitable for avocado production; largely based on the "extreme heat" during the summer.
But after realizing that Israel has a well-developed avocado industry, he got in contact with a grower there. In 2017, he spent a month in the Middle Eastern country learning from him.
"I then invited my colleagues, Oren Wallach and Benny Weiss from Israel, to visit me in Bhopal and suggest if we should try avocado cultivation in Bhopal," he said.
"After examining the climatic conditions, they suggested the region is similar to the Jordan Valley in Israel. And we can use the workings of avocado growers in Jordan valley as an example and try to replicate it here in Bhopal."
Green-skinned avocados suited to central India?
Godha said he knows of no one growing good cultivars on a commercial scale in India. This is in large part due to lack of planting materials and know-how, he said.
"The [import] procedure is not easy," he said. When he eventually figured out the process to receive an import permit for Israeli trees, it came through so late that his consignment got canceled.
But he is now in talks to place his order for the next season.
Hass avocados would not grow successfully in his region, he said, explaining the south has more suitable conditions for Hass. But he expected green-skinned varieties like Pinkerton, Ettinger and Reed would perform well.
Godha plans to plant the first trees in the coming months, with view to harvesting the first crop four years later. The crop phenology will likely be similar to Israel, he said, with fruit set around March and April, and harvests towards the end of the year.
He hopes that, if successful, his project will demonstrate to Indian farmers that avocado production is a viable option for them.
"There is a problem of supply in India, not demand. Because of social media, everyone is aware of the fruit," he said.
"But importing avocados from different countries is expensive because of logistics. As for farmers, I think for an idea to gain traction, it requires proof of concept. My pilot project is that. If my project is successful it can be the example orchard for other interested growers."
He has started a blog - www.indoisraelavocado.com - and YouTube channel to inform interested farmers about production techniques.
There is a strong level of interest in avocado production, he said, not just from farmers, but affluent urban businessmen or professionals who want to diversify their investment portfolio.