In just 10 years, the world's avocado imports have grown by 171,97%, and by 2030, global demand is expected to increase from 2,84 to 4,24 million tons. According to the World Avocado Organization (WAO), Europe's avocado consumption has grown by 65% between 2016 and 2018, reaching 650,000 tons last year. However, the forecast is that in just three years, the European demand for this fruit will exceed one million tons, almost as much as what the United States consumes today (1.1 million tons). At least, these are the forecasts of the Malaga-based companies dedicated to the export and import of tropical fruits.
However, they also warn that producing countries export more and more, as they continue to expand their acreage. This is the case of Peru. Colombia has also been climbing positions in recent years as a new supplier.
Andalusia's avocado acreage accounts for 85% of Spain's total. Malaga accounts for 69% and Granada for 27%. There are also productions in Cádiz and Huelva, and outside of Andalucía in the Canary Islands, with 12% of the area cultivated in Spain, and also in Valencia.
Faced with the forecast of consumption growth, Malaga's marketing companies have attended Fruit Logistica, willing to increase their market share, even though the Spanish avocado production, which is the world's seventh largest, has no prospects to grow, given the lack of water that the sector suffers in the main production areas: Axarquía and Costa Tropical.
According to the manager of Frutas Reyes Gutiérrez, Juan Antonio Reyes, if Spain wants to continue being a relevant player in the production and trade of avocados, public administrations must make a decisive effort to tackle the lack of water resources. "We have the climate, good lands, experience and excellent scientists and technicians, who are knowledgeable about the crop and its techniques, but if we want to expand the acreage, and therefore produce more, we need water," said Reyes.
Due to the high price reached by Spanish avocados in December, the market has ground to a complete halt. For the manager of Alcoaxarquia, José Antonio Alconchel, the price has been the main cause.
For his part, the manager of Sigfrido Fruit, Sigfrido Molina, explained that while Mexico is selling its largest calibers for 1.35 Euro per kilo, the price in Malaga has reached 3 Euro per kilo. "With these prices we are not competitive. In a globalized world, both the sector and the distribution chains are aware of what is happening across the world, and although European consumers prefer the quality of our fruit, they are not always willing to pay much more," said Molina. He also reported that out of all the producing countries that are currently selling avocados in the European Union (Colombia, Peru, Israel, Chile, Mexico and Morocco, as well as Spain), "we are the ones that have the highest price." Producers are not harvesting the fruit because they expect higher prices, but there is nothing indicating that they are going to rise; on the contrary, if we want to be competitive, we must lower them," said Molina, who has warned that there are companies from Colombia and Mexico that are establishing themselves in Malaga to export their productions to Europe.
The assistant director of Tropico Spain, Francisco Ramírez, also believes that "prices are very important, even if the customer prefers our fruit," he said.
According to Reyes Gutiérrez, when prices are high, the demand tends to be covered with cheaper fruit from other origins, "which puts the Spanish fruit in a dangerous position."
For Miguel Páez, of Tropical Millenium, it is increasingly difficult to compete with such high prices. The truth is that the market is growing, but Spain accounts for less than 10% of the avocados sold in Europe. "In Malaga, some plantations are being renewed, but the truth is that Peru is increasingly producing more and for longer," he said.
According to the manager of Natural Tropic, Prudencio López, the problem of avocado plantations in Malaga is that many are already over 50 years old and do not produce as much, so they need to be renewed. The current average is about seven tons per hectare, although there are plantations that produce up to three times more.