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"Expected 'off' year next season expected to bring relief after this year's "thrashing"

Avocado season: from “tricky” to “diabolical”

Traders who didn’t get their timing right got “burned” this season, an avocado exporter tells FreshPlaza. “It was a tricky market and timing was everything. It’s like chalk and cheese compared to last year. No-one foresaw these kinds of volumes.”

The secret to reasonable returns was to get out of the European market early, before the big volumes from Peru headed that way. Like the South African crop, theirs has also boomed and was, some say, similarly underestimated at the start of the season.

The South African industry was fortunate that Peru entered the market later, and exporters who were able to take advantage benefited from that window, but since then it has been a depressed European avocado market, although there’s been some stabilisation in the meantime. 

“On Hass, during some weeks this season we obtained more or less the same prices as last year,” an exporter says. “But the green-skinned price in Europe was diabolical and that’s because of the high volumes.”

“We didn’t expect prices to drop quite as much as they did,” says another exporter who markets fruit from an early-ripening area, which was fortunate to enter and then exit the market early in the season.

Avocado orchards in the north of South Africa are in full flower and indications are that next season will be a good off-year, perhaps more than 12 million export cartons, a plantsman reckons, which will bring relief after this season’s “thrashing” of prices.

Anecdotally, there are avocado farmers who say their income is the same as last year, despite putting much more fruit on the market. On the local market, these are the lowest prices in five years, after three years of limited volumes, according to a trader. “On the up side, we had enough stock to be able to trade freely and offer a variety, which was nice.”

Locally, greenskin avocados obtain R50 (3 euros) to R60 (3.63 euros) per 4kg carton while – contrary to global trends – Hass still gets lower prices, R35 (2.11 euros) to R45 (2.72 euros) per 4kg carton. 

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