Spain is the only European country producing and exporting avocados. The harvest of the fruit in this country takes place between the months of November and May, which means that Spanish producers will end the current campaign either this week or next.
According to provisional data from the Ministry of Agriculture, in the 2015/2016 season Spain produced a total of 83,800 tonnes of avocados, which is 2,000 tonnes more than a year earlier. Of this figure, "20% goes to domestic consumption and the rest is exported abroad," explains the president of the Spanish Association of Producers of Tropical Fruits, José Linares, to Libre Mercado. The main destinations for the avocados grown in Spain are the countries of the Old Continent, including France, Germany and the UK.
"Europe consumes between 400,000 and 500,000 tonnes of avocados a year, of which 10% are Spanish. The rest comes from Mexico and Chile, which are the undisputed leaders, and an increasingly bigger volume comes from Peru and Israel," states Linares. Another peculiarity of our country is that it acts as an avocado gate for the whole of Europe. "Spain also processes and sells the product that comes from those countries. Guaranteeing a year-round supply of avocados to our European customers is a way of earning their loyalty," adds the expert.
The climatic conditions of Malaga and Granada
The specific climatic conditions, that avocados require to survive, limit their cultivation to very specific places in the Spanish territory. So much so, that Malaga's Axarquia and the coast of Granada concentrate 90% of the production in Spain, as the subtropical microclimate of these two provinces are perfect for the cultivation of this fruit of Mexican origin, which arrived in Spain half a century ago.
"We have been producing avocados for 40 years, although the product is still largely unknown. Globally, the consumption figures are huge," assures the president of the Spanish Association of Producers of Tropical Fruits. The growing interest from consumers is motivating some "to test whether their production is possible in some areas of the east, Cadiz and Huelva, but for now, these attempts are just in the trial stage," he points out.
The nutritional properties of this exotic fruit have started to be promoted in China, as pointed out last week in an article in the Financial Times. The newspaper noted that imports of avocados from Mexico and Chile had shot up 250 percent in the Asian country in 2016. China's inexperience in growing this product could entail great opportunities for producing countries. In the case of Spain, Linares believes that it is still soon for Spanish growers to put this market in their sights. "In Europe, we have very good customers that we can supply in a few days and in China we cannot do this," he added.
The Spanish production focuses on the Hass variety, one of the most marketed worldwide, "because it has more flavour," assures the expert. This category is distinguished by its pear shape, the thickness of the skin and its dark colour when ripe.
Linares acknowledges that avocados, considered by Mexicans as green gold, are a profitable product, although their cultivation is "very complicated." While from 1 hectare of any citrus fruit you obtain 60,000 kilos of product, with avocados you can be thankful if you reach 10,000 kilos. The tree yields a small production and needs a lot of energy," he explains. One of the advantages when cultivating avocados is that the ripening of the fruit does not start until it is separated from the tree, so their producers, unlike with other fruits, are not forced to harvest quickly. "The avocado tree itself is the best cold chamber, as the fruit can stay for several months on the tree without ripening," he affirms. In the last weeks of the campaign, the price at origin of avocados in Spain has actually exceeded a record 4 Euro per kilo.