Rolling stones: Who’s feeding the avocado trade?

In recent years, the growth of global avocado consumption has outpaced production. We take a look at who's trying to fill the gap.

Any gourmet looking to buy greens in Europe will know that avocado prices have been on a healthy diet in recent years. There is a simple reason: at 3 percent a year on average, global consumption has been growing faster than production; Europe, a big fan but a tiny producer of the pear, has been feeling the squeeze particularly hard. The continent’s troubles are compounded by rising appetite from China: the country, which did not import a single pear three years ago, now receives 30 containers a week. The US has also grown ever keener on avocados of late.

This global rush has lifted the fortunes of exporters. The largest of them is Mexico, from where half of the world’s exports originate. But the country sells most of its avocados to the US. Europe’s demand is being met by other producers from around the world. Peru, for instance, ships nearly 65 percent of its avocados to the continent; a number of its neighbors, such as Chile, also export a lot to the EU, despite being closer to the US. Sometimes that owes to trade barriers up North: Colombia is currently trying to lower them by sealing a trade deal with Washington.

A range of other producers are trying to fill the gap. South Africa and Israel also export the lion’s share of their avocados to Europe. New Zealand and Australia mainly feed the Asian trade. Smaller competitors, such as Morocco, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, are also planting trees as fast as they can. But that may not be fast enough. Europe’s avocado consumption has grown 150 percent over the past decade, to just under 1kg per capita. That’s well under the US’s 3kg – but industry insiders reckon Europe’s appetite for the fruit may well double to 2kg per person by 2020. Meeting it will be a tall order.