SA avocado industry prepares for Chinese exports in 2024

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The South African avocado industry hopes to capitalise on the competitive trade route advantage they have into the Chinese market in 2024. This comes after the South African and Chinese governments reached an agreement at the end of August that avocados may be exported to Asia.

During an International Fresh Produce Association webinar Clive Garrett, marketing manager of ZZ2 and director of the World Avocado Organisation, said Peru was the largest exporter of avocados to China. However, it takes this South American country around 35 days to deliver a shipment of avocados to Asia. South Africa, on the other hand, can accomplish this within 15 to 30 days due to a shorter route to market.

In total, only ten countries are currently allowed to export avocados to China. They are Peru (84% market share), Chile, Mexico, the Philippines, Columbia, New Zealand, Kenya, the United States (US), Vietnam and South Africa.

Massive growth potential

The world trade in avocados has grown dramatically by over 180 000 tonnes per annum between 2011/12 and 2021/21 due to the fruit’s health benefits, Garrett said. “The turnover at the importation stage has grown by US$4,8 billion from US$2,1 to US$6,9 billion.”

Around 80% of global avocado sales currently take place in the US, European Union, and the United Kingdom, where the market seems relatively saturated at the moment.

While the annual per capita consumption of avocados in the US has grown from around 2kg (2012) to just over 4kg, the Chinese consumption of avocados remained relatively stagnant at around 100g per person per year over the past decade.

Therefore, Garrett believes the opportunities for South African growers are endless. “Due to the large geographical area and different varieties of avocados grown in the country, we can harvest from week ten to week 42, which means that we can almost produce avocados right through the year.”

Trevor Dukes, CEO of The Fruit Farm Group South Africa, agreed that this was a great opportunity for South African growers, but said the industry needed to build on the goodwill that has already been established. “South Africa’s avocado industry must focus on building credibility and installing trust with our receivers in China. Chinese market access provides a real opportunity to build further value for all stakeholders across the value chain.”

Dukes warned that the country needed to also work on good relationships with other countries that exported avocados into China, as these countries were also helping to establish avocados as a superfruit in China.

South African avocado industry expects South African producers to harvest a yield of 20 000 x 4kg cartons next year and Dukes believed that it might not be unrealistic to think that between 5 and 10% of that could be exported to China in 2024. “Of course, it’s not as easy as simply exporting. Chinese exporters need to order the avocados first.”

Find delicious avocado recipes here.

China’s avocado curiosity

Lynn Yang, South African products manager at the Chinese supermarket group, Yonghui Superstores Co., Ltd., said Chinese consumers’ interest in avocados was growing. “Currently Yonghui sells an average of ¥20 million (R52,9 million) worth of avocados per year.”

Yonghui was established in 2001 and currently has 1 033 stores in operation across 29 Chinese provinces. The store’s revenue for 2022 was ¥900 billion (R2,382 trillion) which makes it the second-largest food retailer in the country.

Yang said it was important that avocados are available throughout the year and that it should consist of ready-to-eat avocados. Furthermore, in-store promotions were crucial to ensure that new clients would try the fruit.

Elena Huang, the marketing manager of the Shanghai Supafresh Trading Co. Ltd., said this supermarket group was the first to import avocados into China 11 years ago. She assured South African producers that Supafresh had ripening facilities available in the country and that avocados could be distributed across the country through their seven distribution centres. “We are hoping to expand the avocado business and several of the country’s leading brands trust us. But to add avocados on restaurant menus they must have access to the fruit throughout the year.”

Huang said avocados are utilised somewhat bit differently in China than in Western countries. Restaurants will use it as a burger bun because it is healthier. It is also very popular on pizza, toast and even in coffee. “The younger generation especially likes adding avocado to yoghurt or milk to produce a smoothie.” Generally, the Chinese population consumes avocados as a drink or a dessert. – Susan Marais, Plaas Media


Competition Commission kicks off fresh produce market inquiry

The Competition Commission’s Fresh Produce Market Inquiry was officially launched on 24 March in Pretoria after initial probes indicated alarmingly high levels of market concentration along the South African fresh produce value chain.

The inquiry will commence on 31 March, and the Commission will need to finalise a report on the inquiry within 18 months after that launch date. 


Freezing produce: Learn how to add value

South African farmers are facing several challenges, including the current economic climate and the ongoing drought in some regions of the country. In order to survive and thrive, producers need to find new ways to add value to their produce. One way to do this is by processing their crops into frozen foods.

Frozen foods are a popular and growing market, and there is a strong demand for high-quality, locally produced frozen foods. Processing food can also help producers to extend the shelf life of their produce, which can help to reduce waste.

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