Colombia could become world's second biggest producer of avocados

At the end of 2014, Sergio Torres left his position as the director of national purchases and sales in Olmue Colombia, a frozen fruit company, to develop a new project. Torres, along with three Chilean investors -Felipe Barros, Gines Reñasco and Anibal Correa- formed a company dedicated to producing Hass avocados to export to Europe, the United States, and Asia as of 2020.

This producer from the department of Quindío always knew that Colombia had possibilities in the avocado world. "It is a country that has an indisputable agricultural vocation. It is located in the navel of the world, it has access to the Atlantic and the Pacific, and two thermal floors to produce all kinds of fruit throughout the year. Colombia changes latitude by altitude, and thus has a large agricultural supply," he said.

In the last four years, the area devoted to Hass avocado has doubled in Colombia, reaching 17 thousand hectares. The general manager of Westsole - a fusion of the South African company Westfalia with the Chilean Subsole - Pedro Aguilar, estimates that with an annual growth rate that ranges between 1,500 and 2,000 hectares, Colombia could reach 30,000 in seven years.

The export figures of avocado have grown rapidly. In 2016 Colombia exported US $35 million of this product and in 2017 sales amounted to around US $50 million. This season, which started in September, the country is expected to export 70 million dollars, which corresponds to 38,000 tons.

According to Aguilar, now that the Colombian fruit sector achieved the opening of the US market - the main Hass avocado consumer in the world - there should be an increase in the export volume. All of this has positioned the country as a very attractive scenario for foreign investors, as investors from different countries -such as Chile, Peru, Mexico and Spain- have come looking for land to invest in this fruit.

However, for this to happen, the country must work on improving phytosanitary processes so that the farms are free of pests. Otherwise, they will be unable to export, as happened with two containers that left in November to the North American country.

Following this progress, Sergio Torres believes that "Colombia will become the second largest producer of Hass avocado in five years."

The impetus behind this growth was the peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla, initiated in 2012. The pacification of the country is what has allowed Colombia to take advantage of the fields that were overshadowed by the violence for more than 50 years and created the conditions to produce, market, and even export different products, as it will allow the country to transform into a new fruit player which Chile could be face in the markets.

Source: El Mercurio

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