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Zander Ernst - Allesbeste Symposium Week

South African avocado maverick opens its doors for a week

A week of presentations, visits to avocado orchards and trial blocks plus a tour of a nursery (on prior appointment) which has been at the forefront of avocado breeding in South Africa for many years are offered by the annual Allesbeste Symposium week, running from Monday 5 until Friday 9 August 2024.

Home to the Maluma avocado cultivar, Allesbeste Boerdery invites international guests to sit down with them, Dr Mary Lu Arpaia (right) from the University of California Riverside (UCR), and industry experts from Israel and India for a deep dive into Allesbeste's avocado production and genetic development programme over the course of two pre-symposium workshops, aimed at international visitors.

"We want to extend an invitation to people who are curious about what we're busy with, people who'd like to put out feelers for avocados in South Africa," says Zander Ernst, Allesbeste's director of marketing and production.

Given the volatility of the post-Covid avocado climate, a greater degree of coordination and dialogue will only benefit the avocado market which has, he maintains, become roomy enough to accommodate all producers.

Ernst says the Maluma cultivar was again validated during the past season, when it reliably peaked on good sizes (in the range of counts 12 to 20) in Peruvian orchards where other cultivars struggled with size. Their own orchards were also under stress, he notes, but their crop has been so large this season, it stretched harvesting capacity before the cold came in June.

Approaches to the new markets in the East
When the symposium started, South Africa had limited markets for its avocado crop, but since those days, India, Japan and China have opened up. The symposium brings Indian nursery owner Jeevan Kulkarni of Nutree Farm in Maharashtra State and some of his colleagues to sketch in the details of Indian market potential for South African producers but also, crucially, India's own avocado production potential.

"India and China have land and capacity in spades to become global avocado giants to equal Peru," Ernst says; many farmers in those two countries are looking for an alternative to coffee and tea. "One should consider that China has been open to Peru for a couple of years but still Peru sends a lot of avocados to Europe."

Of the three new markets, Allesbeste is most excited about India (additionally, a number of Maluma blocks established in India are coming into production) but there are specificities to consider, which will be unpacked during the symposium.

"We want to sketch in the details of what the cost chain looks like to these new markets. Their opening is fantastic, and we're incredibly excited about it, but we offer some points of caution. In the Indian market avocados earn higher prices than in Europe but immediately a 30% import duty kicks in. The challenge in markets where prices are so incredibly high is that these are typically also markets that can quickly be oversupplied."

Two shipping protocols are available: treatment with methyl bromide or shipping at 2°C for 19 days. "The crux of the cold protocol is that it can only work on certain cultivars and very mature fruit. We've done similar shipments with Maluma to Rotterdam with very successful arrivals."

Husqvarna will demonstrate orchard and farm equipment.

Luna licensing launches soon
The Luna cultivar, of which the local license is held by Stargrow, is on the cusp of being made commercially available to South African growers and its long-time researcher Dr Mary Lu Arpaia (UCR) will help growers make up their minds about this cultivar with its B-type flower, its pollination benefits and possible role as cross-pollinator.

"Luna is the first new avocado cultivar to be launched in South Africa in about a decade," Ernst points out – and two more will follow within the next year or two: Allesbeste has two late cultivars lined up as soon as their registration is complete, the one a greenskin to rival Ryan and the other, a Hass for the period after Lamb Hass.

"These two cultivars, which we'll also discuss at the symposium week, offer a substantial opportunity during the late season. We have been trialling these two for over twenty years, and we're offering the opportunity for growers to establish semi-commercial blocks at no licensing fee, which would place them at the front of its establishment."

Smorgasbord of things they like
The symposium exists, also, to give others a peek into what excites them at Allesbeste Boerdery, like Qlik business artificial intelligence for data-based forecasting or the electrostatic biomimicking pollination technology of Israeli tech company BloomX that they and ZZ2 have been testing on avocados.

They're very excited about the possibilities of artificial pollination, especially during cool or overcast periods when bees are loathe to work or in problematic blocks. It's expensive, but he maintains that the success they've seen on fruit set – particularly during the valuable first flowering – amply compensates for the cost component.

Coffee, too, excites the high-energy Allesbeste team, and a visit to their coffee plantations is on the menu.

As always, orchards will be visited and regular symposium-goers can follow the development of the blocks planted with Allesbeste's own rootstock selections and its combination with a variety of scions (including the two new late cultivars under registration).

The Allesbeste nursery is open by appointment (max 30 people) and then Friday is wholly set aside for networking with those who came from far and would like to set meetings with the Allesbeste team.

Registration for the Allesbeste Symposium ends on 28 July 2024. To qualify for a free Maluma shirt, register before 14 July 2024. Registration link:

For more information:
Donovan Lewis
Allesbeste Boerdery
Tel: +27 15 307 3076
Email: [email protected]