Avocados have proven to be a profitable agricultural crop in Israel in the past years. The planting rate of these green fruit trees has increased strongly, even at the expense of other fruit varieties, such as citrus.
Mehadrin, an Israeli company that for many years has been associated with citrus growing, also recognizes the potential that lies in this newfound popularity of the avocado. Last year, about 60% of its new plantings were avocado trees, amounting to about 65 hectares. The total area of avocado plantations of Mehadrin already reaches to 750 hectares of avocado trees, which is 20% of its total acreage. This acreage has proved to be profitable, as it accounted for 30% of the company’s revenue.
According to Shaul Shelach, CEO of Mehadrin, this is a worldwide trend. “The demand for avocados in the world is on the rise because it is considered ‘superfood.’ Consumption is increasing everywhere,” he explains.
"It will benefit Israeli agriculture as well"
These favorable prospects have led Mehadrin to expand its avocado growing activities abroad, as they recently signed an agreement with a Moroccan company to raise their avocado growing even more. Now, for the first time, Israeli fruits will be grown outside its borders. At least 500 hectares in Morocco will be leased and the companies will invest NIS 30 million in the first three years of operation. Mehadrin owns 51% of this venture.
The maximum production capacity is expected to be 10,000 tons of avocados per year. These fruits are destined mostly for Mehadrin’s partners in Europe, while the fruits that are not suitable for export will be sold in Morocco.
Shaul Shelach, CEO of Mehadrin, explains that “in order to grow, Mehadrin needs to create additional sources of activity and grow elsewhere. This will also benefit Israeli agriculture, as we will be able to give better service all year round to our customers in Europe.”
Shelach estimates that the company’s activity in Morocco could make up to a quarter of Mehadrin’s avocado activity. “Morocco is the perfect country to grow avocados: the costs are much lower and it is also closer to our main markets in Europe.”
According to Shelach, the need to expand abroad is increased by water scarcity. “We are the largest grower in Israel and the largest exporter of agriculture, but this is not an easy field to be in. We want citrus to be our main crop, but in Israel this is hindered by the high water cost. Water is the main expense, along with human labor. To increase our competitiveness, we have to increase our activities abroad.
But Morocco won’t be the final destination, Shelach predicts. “ Our next move abroad will be in the southern hemisphere, where besides lower costs we have the additional benefit of different seasons. This way we can grow fruits in seasons that nothing grows in Israel.”