Given the versatile avocado’s positioning as the super fruit of choice, supplying countries are in a race to ensure enough supply to meet higher demand. However the trend from last year, of the weather impact causing lower production continues. Early in 2024 Colombia has appeared as one of the main suppliers of avocados to many key markets as the country has now recovered from last year’s negative weather effects, according to producers and exporters there. They expect between 25-35% higher volumes this year, which is good given that avocado pricing is stable and trending higher in many markets such as Europe and the US. The South American country is making hay while competitor countries and major exporters Mexico and Peru continue to have lower volumes as they feel the impact of the weather. Peru’s avocado production is 30% less in the north and 15% less in the south, but they say it is still a better start to the year than last season. Supply from Mexico to the US is steady with high dry content matter, a key quality- determining factor.

However, the current Red Sea crises is having an effect on transit times for avocados from Africa through to Europe and Germany specifically, which in turn has an impact on the quality of the goods. Countries such as Kenya and Tanzania are shifting their focus towards the Middle and Far East due to the situation in the Red Sea region. In Italy Hass comes mainly from Colombia and Morocco, with buying (or purchase) prices of 13-14 €. Green-skinned avocados come from Peru and, in limited quantities, from Israel, with buying prices ranging from €10 to €11 depending on the variety. France is seeing very high avocado demand and prices with supply from Spain down. Belgium is seeing demand for high quality avocados that are in short supply from Spain, while other origins are available too.

The Hass avocado harvest in Spain is in full swing, but the main production area of Malaga had problems with irrigation water supplies, leading to lower production. Other production areas are expected to see a change from avocado, with less thirsty mango trees being planted. In the Netherlands Colombian avocados dominate the market.

North American avocado sales picked up in January with a healthy sales “bump” as demand peaks from a few days before the much awaited American Super Bowl. Mexico has a steady supply with a good quality crop.

Colombia: Expecting up to 35% volume increase
Colombia continues to consolidate its position in Europe as the main supplier of Hass avocados in the December-January-February season. An exporter noted they have “very good return prices during this period because Colombia does not fill the market as Peru does in the summer season (May-June-July).” For the next six months he sees a very good opportunity in the US market, “since it seems that Mexico will not have enough fruit to supply the American market and there is a very good opportunity for the Colombian origin with good return prices.”

The El Niño phenomenon, which brings drought for Colombia with very little rain, means there is more flowering in the trees, and so a greater increase in production volume is expected during 2024. They are finishing the 2023/24 season with larger sizes, mainly between 16-18 and 20 gauges. The Colombian avocado quality also improved after the decrease in rainfall in the second half of 2023, meaning higher quality and fewer claims at destination.

Peru: Slower start to year with lower volumes in early part of 2024
Traditionally a large exporter of avocados, Peru ended last year and started this year with 30% less volumes from the north of the country. The ongoing effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon continue to impact the trees and production. 30% less production in the north, and 15% less in the south, however these results are much better than those of the 2023 season. An exporter noted that avocados with calibres from 16 to 24 have the greatest volume, while larger calibres from 12 to 14 are rarer. In some production areas of Peru, there are still rain episodes that delay the harvest. They also affect the post-harvest condition of the fruit, which has to be carefully managed. Despite this Peru is exporting avocados to several destinations, including Asia, Europe and the US says the exporter.

US, Canada and Mexico: North American avocado sales pick up in January
There is a steady supply of avocados from Mexico at the moment with plentiful supplies of good quality fruit. The Mexican avocado crop is high right now in dry matter which means that the fruit has a higher oil content. That level of oil content is associated with the creamy, buttery texture that consumers often prefer.

Colombia is also shipping some avocados to North America. Along with avocados generally getting a healthy-eating “bump” in demand, this is the time of year when preparations are underway for the Super Bowl--an event that’s considered one of the most significant avocado consumption days. On average, avocado sales lift by 20% in January according to Circana’s multi-outlet channel data from 2019 to 2022 and over half of avocado purchases are made only a day or two before the Super Bowl.

As for avocado pricing, the market has recently started to balance in both size and price.

Israel: Harvest in full-swing
Israel’s avocado harvest is in full swing with weekly loads of 5,000 tons destined mainly for Europe. Exporters here say the demand in Europe is high with good prices, which is likely to last until the end of Israel’s season, as other big suppliers like Peru are short on volume. Sizing and quality of the fruit as well as dry matter are well in line for both Hass and Greenskin varieties. There are some challenges with the availability of workers, with volunteers stepping in to assist where needed.

South Africa: Harvest season started early, but supply short until mid-February
The early harvest has started in the Levubu area, the season is very early this year. The climate in the north of South Africa has been very favourable for avocados, notes an agronomist.

The South African Subtropical Growers Association (Subtrop) says that avocados will be in short supply from January to mid-February before the new season starts. They have warned producers, as they do every year, against picking immature avocados in order to capitalize on the hot market.

Towards the end of last year a preliminary figure of 18.5 million 4kg cartons (74 million kg) was put forward as an export estimate, perhaps somewhat on the conservative side. A formal export crop estimate will be released in middle February.

Rwanda: Growing avocado industry
Rwanda's avocado season continues into April, with peak volumes expected between the end of January and March. The peak in exports coincides with the Red Sea crisis, which worries exporters. One exporter says: "The fact that we started exporting by sea rather than by air has changed the game in the Rwandan avocado sector. This happened very recently, when Rwanda became an emerging country in the production and export of this crop. But this year, we had to deal with the Red Sea crisis, which lengthened our delivery times".

Prices for Rwandan avocados currently stand at around 2.50-3.10 USD per kilo of Hass avocado, CAF Dubai, according to the same source.

The avocado industry is new to the country. The exporter explains: "Last season, from October 2022 to April 2023, Rwanda exported 3500 tons of avocados. This year, we're expecting an exceptional year with over 5,000 tons, worth over $10 million, and 40% more than last season. Next season, we expect to export 7,000 tons. The main varieties are Hass, which accounts for the majority of production, followed by Fuerte. The main market is the Middle East, but the switch to sea transport heralds the opening up of European markets.

Germany: Tight supply situation, but stable sales figures
A German importer notes that due to the Suez crisis, considerably longer transit times must be considered for African avocados, which in turn has an impact on the quality of the goods. Meanwhile, normal quantities are being loaded in Israel, despite the war situation. In Colombia, on the other hand, export volumes for the European market have been reduced this year for two reasons. Firstly, the US export market is gaining in importance at the expense of the European market. Secondly, there has been heavy rainfall recently, which is why entire farms have been destroyed in certain growing regions of Colombia. As a result, a lot of produce cannot be exported at all. In Morocco and Spain, limited quantities are available at a high price level.

The importer adds that a tight supply situation is to be expected throughout the first quarter. According to initial forecasts, the early goods from Peru will also be three weeks late, which is why the season there will not really get going until April instead of March. Nevertheless, the situation is still nowhere near as serious as with mangoes, where there have been very sharp price increases. The latter, in turn, has led to a drop in demand. In contrast, sales figures for avocados remain good and stable.

Italy: Regular sales, not much available
In Italy, almost 29% of households buy avocados at least once a year (GfK Consumer Panel Services data). In Apulia, a company has launched its first commercial campaign with avocados grown in Italy. It recently harvested around 10 tonnes of fruit (compared to 2 tonnes in 2023) and sold them at prices of €3.80-€4.00/kg in some supermarkets.

According to a wholesaler in northern Italy, avocado sales are almost regular, with fairly stable prices for both Hass and Greenskin. Demand is not high and there is not much available at the moment. “Hass comes mainly from Colombia and Morocco, with buying (or purchase) prices of 13-14 €. Green-skinned avocados come from Peru and, in limited quantities, from Israel, with buying prices ranging from €10 to €11 depending on the variety.”

Belgium: Good demand for Spanish avocados
The current Spanish avocado season is difficult. The drought and the resulting water shortage means that production is significantly lower than in other years. "It means that there is currently a significantly lower supply of especially the large sizes, which results in relatively high prices," says a trader. "The quality is definitely there this season, but due to the shortage of water, the avocados cannot gain weight. As a result, people are mainly left with the smaller sizes and the larger sizes are stuck between 18, 20 and 22. There are many origins on the market, such as Morocco and Colombia. These prices are also significantly different depending on the quality. The fruit is a bit cheaper, but the quality still does not win over the Spanish and we see that people still prefer quality over prices. As a result, the demand for Spanish remains very good. However, smaller sizes are becoming more and more popular."

Netherlands: Colombian avocado season ends prematurely, price peak anticipated in March
The avocado market currently enjoys stability with consistent prices. Presently, Colombian avocados dominate the market; however, importers predict an earlier end of the Colombian season than initially anticipated. The final substantial volumes are expected to arrive in February. This is foreseen to result in a diminished supply in March, precisely when consumption typically peaks due to Ramadan and Easter," stated a Dutch importer. "Countries such as Kenya and Tanzania are shifting their focus towards the Middle and Far East due to the situation in the Red Sea region. The extended transit time of six to twelve days, coupled with associated quality risks, has rendered export to Europe less appealing."

France: High demand and prices for avocados
Currently on the French market avocado from Israel, Spain and Morocco can be found. The demand is high and prices are also very high because Mediterranean origins try to extend their offer during the campaign so they reduce the volumes. Normally, wholesalers turn to avocados from Kenya, but the crisis in the Red Sea (forcing carriers to pass through South Africa) means that some carriers no longer stop in South Africa, preferring to supply Chinese garlic to Europe.

Spain: Harvest in full swing, water supply problems lead to reduced production
Spain's avocado campaign is currently in full swing with the harvest of the Hass variety. Malaga is still the largest avocado producing area, although problems in the supply of irrigation water have led to a reduction of its production and increasing diversification in other parts of Spain, such as Granada, Cadiz, Huelva or the Region of Valencia. “A significant change is expected to happen in the Axarquía, in Malaga, where a large part of the avocados will be replaced by mangoes, which have much lower water needs”, according to an expert.

The Region of Valencia already has about 3,600 hectares devoted to avocados, although it is believed that this acreage will soon exceed 4,000. At the moment, about 70% of the avocados produced in the Region of Valencia are of the Lamb Hass variety, and the other 30% are Hass, although we expect these shares to become 50%-50% in the future.

“Normally in December there were already cuts and some commercial pressure, but this year the start has been delayed a little,” explains an operator from the province. “We believe it is due to a saturation of calibers in the market. This year, due to the drought, the sizes of the avocados that come are not very large and in December we have competed in sizes with the fruit from Colombia, Chile and other origins."

Next week's topic: Onions