Avocado consumption in South Africa has been on the rise in recent years, just like in many other places around the world.
This skyrocketing demand has a variety of negative side effects, like high prices or bad farming practices, but now there seems to be another one to keep an eye on: immature avocados.
Immature avocados are those which have been picked too soon and will therefore never ripen. With many producers and marketers trying to get avocados as soon as possible on supermarket shelves at high prices, this practice may happen more often.
Not only is this practice illegal, but it’s very damaging to the industry.
According to an article by Food for Mzansi, from South Africa, “To enforce the law, both the department of agriculture, land reform, and rural development (DALRRD), and the South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA) contract inspectors test the fruit at packhouses before they are sent to market.”
This is an issue that other African avocado-producing countries are trying to address. The CEO of the Avocado Society of Kenya said last year that their avocado market was being greatly affected by the quality of the fruit.
Apparently, the issue rose from farmers selling fruit at low prices to agencies and companies which would buy immature fruit to put in the market as quickly as possible.
Other issues involving broken cold rooms, incorrect handling of the fruit, and lack of hygiene are also a concern for the African avocado market.
According to authorities, it all comes down to regulating the market so that all the fruit being sold goes through an inspection process before reaching the hands of consumers.
Targeting the informal trade of stolen fruit and unregulated sales is the biggest challenge.
Francois Knowles, CEO of the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (Apac) said: “To protect the industry there needs to be continuity so that consumers have faith in the product they buy. But national fresh markets are failing the industry and it’s no secret that the state of these markets is dismal.”
Consumers should be skeptical of avocados being sold at unusually low prices, and try to buy them always in certified supermarkets, especially during this time of the year with high demand.