Avocado has become a high-potential export product and currency generator for Colombia. The country's Hass avocado exports have gone from less than $300,000 in 2012 to more than 95 million dollars in 2019.
The Westfalia Fruit Colombia company accounts for 20% of the country's total Hass avocado exports. “Colombia exports 95% of its avocado to Europe, and very recently shipments to the United States have begun to grow. The markets of Japan and China are also opening, and we are already sending avocados to the Middle East, Costa Rica, and Canada,” said Pedro Aguilar, the manager of the company, in an interview with Portafolio.
The opening of new markets depends on the phytosanitary protocols that are agreed between governments. “The most recently signed protocols were with China and Japan. Once the protocols are defined, the industry begins to take advantage of them gradually, due to their rigorous demands,” Aguilar said. “Progress is being made with South Korea and Chile. Chileans are big producers, but they don't have enough production to meet their demand in the first half of the year.”
Parallel to the increase in Hass avocado exports, domestic consumption is also increasing. "Colombian consumers' demand for avocado has also increased, but most of the demand corresponds to green varieties, while sales of Hass avocado only account for 20% of all sales."
Colombia obtains two crops of this fruit a year and it is able to supply the markets 9 to 10 months. "If we have good agricultural practices and post-harvest management, we'll probably be able to offer the fruit throughout the whole year in the medium-term," Aguilar stated.
Hass avocado is grown between 1,800 and 2,600 meters above sea level in Colombia. The most important producing departments in the country are Antioquia, the Coffee Area, Valle, Huila, Tolima, and Cauca. Avocado production is an important source of employment in the region. Colombia currently has 25,000 hectares planted with avocados and in the next two years, it can reach 32,000 hectares. “In the growing season producers require 1.5 workers per hectare, which means they require about 25,000 people. In harvest, however, this sector can produce 40,000 to 50,000 direct jobs. Our company, Westfalia, has two packing plants for export and generates 200 direct jobs, only at these sites,” concluded Aguilar.