While the season may have had a “sluggish” start late last year, the Spanish avocado campaign that finished just a few weeks ago was “really successful” according to the head of an industry association.
In a situation similar to that experienced by South African suppliers, growers from the Mediterranean country benefited from delayed supplies of Peruvian fruit in May and June.
Spanish Tropical Fruit Association José Linares told PBUK that during those two months the sector saw record prices both at point of sale and grower returns.
He described the UK as a market that showed “exorbitant” price rises, reaching record levels.
“For this season that just finished we had production of between 60,000 tonnes and 65,000 tonnes, and of very good quality,” he said, indicating this was a recovery from the 45,000 tonnes recorded in 2015-16 due to weather impacts on orchards.
He said the sector was still not growing as fast as farmers would like, and not for a lack of available land but rather due to a shortage of water in productive areas around Málaga and Granada.
As a result fruit was sold very quickly once it hits the market, thanks to fast-growing demand that was far from being met due to supply issues from Peru.
“The problem with Peru came just as we were finishing the season, so there was a shortage due to the delay of Peru’s entry for almost a month,” he said.
“In that specific period we saw prices go up a lot, to almost €4 (£3.54) [per carton] for the grower while for the trade they were being sold at approximately €6 (£5.31). But that was a specific time – in general there were similar prices to the previous season.”
Linares said around 400,000 tonnes of avocados were sold in Europe from different origins including Chile, Peru and Mexico, and this year that figure was set to rise to 480,000 tonnes.
“In general in Europe we have an average consumption of one kilo per capita, so the growth possibilities are still high,” he said.
With this sort of demand growth at play, Linares said it wasn’t yet an attractive proposition to try to open up markets outside the European Union.
He added Germany was one of the markets with the most sustained growth.
“Germany started from zero. In a few years they’ve increased their consumption in such a way that has even outpaced Spain. Even though in Spain we are growers, we find it very difficult to sell avocados,” he said.
“We are at a per consumption level of 800g annually, while in Germany they’re very close to a kilo on average.
He says this substantial growth from very low levels was partly because Germans used to think avocados would make you put on weight.
“Now with campaigns that make people aware, they have realized it’s not like that, and that you’ve got to eat avocados,” he said.
“Now Germans are eating a lot of avocados – still half of what France consumes – but I repeat, they started from zero five or six years ago.”
While Spanish industry players would prefer to build much more quickly on the existing 10,000 hectares of production, Linares said there was still growth of around 500-1,000 hectares per year.
“We don’t have growth capacity until we have water, so we think growth will be 10% annually,” he said.
The executive claimed the shortage was mainly due to a lack of infrastructure for moving irrigation water to orchards, emphasizing water sources were far away.
“The issue of infrastructure has to do with the government. We are divided here in autonomous communities and on the other hand there is the central government, so the competencies are split and that makes it very complicated. But we’re working on that,” he said.
“I think in five years or more we’ll have some result,” he added, in reference to ongoing efforts with the government to try and solve the problem.
Linares said that while his association was undertaking campaigns to promote avocado consumption within Spain, he was upbeat about a campaign announced by the World Avocado Organization (WAO) to promote the fruit across Europe.
The campaign will cost €2.5 million (£2.21 million) with the tagline “Avocado – the Fruit of Life”, focused on the U.K., France and Germany.
The initiative will involve public relations, social media, open air activities and digital activities, along with a multilingual cook book online.
Retailer Tesco has joined the WAO, which also includes Costco in the UK, Lidl and Carrefour in France, and represents exporters and importers from countries including Brazil, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and the United States.