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South African avocado industry preparing to start first shipments to India, Japan and China

South African avocados have in the space of eight months gained market access to potentially reach over 2.5 billion people across India, China and Japan. It may seem like these big key markets suddenly opening, but it has taken around 15 years for South Africa to gain access to Japan, several years to India and a few years to China. This means only a short wait of a couple of more months this year remain for the last verification visits by for instance Chinese officials to take place in mid-June. Shortly thereafter, official shipments will start.

Derek Donkin, CEO of the South African Subtropical Growers' Association (Subtrop), says they are busy finalizing the last details on the ground to be able to send the fruit. "We got new market access to China in August last year when the protocol was signed. At the moment we're waiting for the final Chinese inspection scheduled to take place in mid-June. Thereafter, we expect to send the first shipment of avocados."

While the actual export of avocados to China will come towards the end of the South African season, Donkin believes as with all new markets it will be gradually developed. "It is difficult to say how much volume we will send there. China is a market that is growing. It is currently not a major market for avocados, so initially, we do not expect a large proportion of the South African crop will be sold in China. However, the potential there is immense and the South African avocado industry will tap into future growth in China.

Donkin says his industry is delighted to have access to all these new markets so shortly after each other. "In December new market access was granted to Japan, while in April we were granted access to India. That's three new markets in the space of eight months. We are looking forward to sending our first shipments to those markets."

2024 season started well
He says the volumes for South Africa's 2024 avocado season is set to grow by about 7.5% from last season's 18.6 million 4 kg cartons to an expected 20 million 4 kg cartons. The efficiency of South African ports remains problematic and industry is working with government to resolve the issues. New plantings have contributed to the growth in volumes. "To date we have shipped 7 million cartons. Shipping and ports remains challenging, but everyone involved in the logistics chain is working hard to ensure that fruit gets out in time. We're seeing new plantings coming into production, with at least 800 new hectares going into the ground per year. Currently, we have around 20,000 hectares. We should continue to see growth for the next 5-7 years as new orchards come into production."

Donkin says the outlook for the South African avocado industry looks promising for the remainder of the season. "Reports are that volumes from Peru will be down due to the effects of El NiƱo, which means the European market will be less fully supplied than in the previous season. Currently, there is pressure on the price of smaller sizes due to a high proportion of smaller fruit in recent Peruvian shipments. For the larger fruit of count 12 to 18, prices remain good and stable."

While Peru presents volume competition to South Africa in Europe, Kenya with the expanding avocado industry are presenting more competition too. "Kenya offers us some competition, they export more in total than from South Africa. However, a large portion of their crop is exported to the Middle East, where they have an advantage in terms of proximity to market. Our major competition in terms of volume in the European market is Peru," concludes Donkin.

For more information:
Derek Donkin
Subtrop/ SAAGA
Tel: +27 15 307 3676
Email: [email protected]