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"The Maluma is the only cultivar capable of competing with Hass" - Dr André Ernst, Allesbeste Boerdery

Maluma commercialisation imminent in Chile & Israel with trials in the USA

The Maluma avocado, commercially launched in 2007, is an alternative to Hass in areas where Hass struggles with its size count distribution. The Maluma, a chance selection originating in the Levubu area of Limpopo Province, thrives under hot conditions. It is currently commercially cultivated in South Africa, Australia, Peru and Spain with commercialisation imminent in Chile and Israel.

In Chile, whose avocados follow those of South Africa onto the European market, the Maluma material was released in July 2015 after a quarantine period of two-and-a-half years, which is why the development of the cultivar there lags behind. Agricom, who imported the Maluma material, is very interested and the cultivar is on the verge of moving on to the commercial phase. San José Nursery and Jorge Schmidt’s nursery are being licensed to propagate Maluma stock. Jorge Schmidt, the largest grower of avocados in Chile, is very interested to include Maluma in its expansions. 

Israel offers a perfect opportunity for the Maluma, as on the whole (with the exception of some microclimates) the country’s too hot for Hass. Oren Nursery introduced the Maluma in 2014 to 16 semi-commercial test blocks to gauge the cultivar’s performance across Israel and just over 400 trees have been planted in its final semi-commercial blocks.

“The first Maluma material arrived in the United States in July. Mission has put up its hand to become involved. They’re already involved in Peru and they’d like to evaluate Maluma in the United States. There’s a definite need to roll out Maluma in the United States,” says Dr André Ernst of Allesbeste Boerdery in Tzaneen, proprietary owner of the cultivar whose nursery is the main source of propagation material at this stage.

In Mexico, players have been identified and sights are also set on Colombia, where the Maluma is protected by plant breeder’s rights, as in all the avocado-producing countries of the world.

Maluma peaks at commercially valuable size counts
One thing that distinguishes Maluma from Hass is its ability to peak at large size counts (counts 14 to 22), the most commercially valuable counts. “Fruit size out of spec should be considered a quality defect,” Edrean Ernst of Allesbeste Boerdery points out. “We consider fruit size a quality factor because price discounting takes place according to fruit size. Hass doesn’t peak where you get the most for your avocados, which we regard as a defect of the cultivar. Not an overall defect, but definitely a defect in certain areas.”

Of the Maluma count, 65% falls within the correct count distribution, providing a larger commercially valuable yield than Hass, explains Edrean Ernst. Other factors like yield and exportable percentage being equal, 90% of Maluma’s returns come from the high value counts. “Based on actual figures from 2016 at Letaba Packers, 65% of Maluma fell within the counts of 12 to 22, compared to only 37% of Hass,” he continues.

“If you want to be successful with a new cultivar, it has to be on the market for 12 months of the year,” says Dr Ernst. “But we don’t have enough fruit yet.” Current South African production can provide the Maluma from weeks 17 to 29, but there are plans to expand the South African window through plantings in the George district in the Southern Cape that will come in after the northern harvest. As volumes come in from the countries where Maluma already is cultivated, and where it will be cultivated in the near future (including African countries like Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique and Zambia, possibly Tanzania at a later stage) there will be sufficient volumes to provide European consumers year-round with the Maluma. 

Maluma in Spain and Peru
Commercial plantings in Spain commenced with over 5,200 trees during 2016 and according to future tree orders the yearly increase is expected to be sharp.

The cultivar has already found favour with Spanish consumers, who like the texture of the skin and the size. Volumes from South Africa to Spain have doubled from 2012 to 2016. Spain is therefore an important growth market for the Maluma avocado, as well as France. André Ernst mentions that in France they’ve already been told by their agents that super-markets are asking specifically for the Maluma.

In Peru growers have found that the Maluma thrives under their conditions and there is large-scale expansion into Maluma plantings, especially in the Trujillo area and towards the north. In 2017, no fewer than 255 000 trees will be top-grafted with Maluma in Peru, the majority by TAL S.A which already established 50 000 trees last year in the Trujillo area. Another 10 000 have been ordered by Agricola Cerro Prieto S.A. It’s estimated that Peruvian hectarage of Maluma can rise above 1000ha by 2018. 

“This year you could see northern Peruvian growers had enormous problems with the count sizes on their early Hass fruit, because of the heat, and that’s where the Maluma comes in,” says Dr Ernst. The Maluma is a precocious cultivar with the other advantage that the fruit can be harvested at 22% dry matter, meaning it can be harvested earlier than Hass, which is harvested at 23% dry matter.

"We're at the point where it's inevitable for the Maluma brand to go international"
“In Australia they employed that window in March perfectly in their early areas, where Maluma successfully competes with the Shepard cultivar,” he continues. The avocado is marketed under the registered Maluma brand in Australia, the only other country apart from South Africa where this is currently done. Maluma volumes delivered by Costa to the Coles Supermarket grew by 120% in 2017 in Australia, where Maluma was first established by DBC Farming in Dimbulah, Northern Queensland. 

Zander Ernst, executive director of Maluma South Africa responsible for the marketing, says that the cultivar is at the point where it’s inevitable for the brand to go international. The brand is currently registered in Australia, South Africa, European Union and Peru. 

Zander Ernst of Allesbeste Boerdery with their pioneering trellised avocados

Lastly, there are substantial plantings of the Maluma in the Philippines. “There they have a pretty big problem with fruit size of Hass, but we convinced them that Maluma would solve those problems,” notes André Ernst. The advantage of a foothold in the Far East is penetration for the Maluma into the Chinese and Japanese markets, currently still closed to avocados from South Africa. 

There is such interest in the Maluma that the waiting list at the Allesbeste Nursery in Tzaneen runs until 2023. “We want the Northern Hemisphere to catch up with us in volumes, which is why we’re expanding our nursery and also going with licensed satellite nurseries,” concludes André Ernst. “Maluma is currently the only cultivar capable of competing with Hass. In our opinion, it’s the basis for the perfect avocado. The avocado has reached commodity status and no industry can solely rely on a single cultivar like Hass. There are some established ideas that need to be challenged.”

For more information:
Dr André Ernst
Allesbeste Boerdery
Tel: +27 15 307 3076

Publication date: 8/21/2017
Author: Carolize Jansen
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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