Colombian avocados want spot in U.S. market

Colombia is hoping to become a major player in the booming U.S. avocado market. U.S. demand for the buttery fruit increased 174 percent from 2000 to 2014.

U.S. consumer demand for the green, buttery vegetable is spiking. And Colombia — armed with a free-trade agreement with the United States — is hoping to be the next big player in America’s guacamole bowl.

They’re still not contenders, as they need to jump through phytosanitary and regulatory hoops to enter the market. But by most accounts, that day will come within the next 24 months or so.

Colombia exports 80 different agricultural products to the United States, said Colombia’s Minister of Agriculture Aurelio Iragorri.

U.S. demand for avocados has increased 174 percent in the past 14 years as consumers have been won over by the green-pod’s health benefits and versatility in the kitchen. But as that one-minute spot suggests (it may have cost as much as $9 million in air-time alone, according to trade journals), the competition is fierce.

Mexico supplied 1.3 billion pounds of avocados to the United States in 2014. That was followed by California with 282 million pounds, Peru with 144 million pounds and Chile with 89 million pounds, according to the U.S.-based Hass Avocado Board. And it’s in that bottom tier that Colombia sees its opportunity.

“Our geography and proximity would give us an advantage over Chile and Peru,” said Andrés Eduardo Mejía, the executive director of CORPOHASS, the association of Colombia’s avocado producers and exporters. “The U.S. is seeing per-capita consumption expand and promotional efforts are exploding.”...

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