Emerging Markets / December 11, 2019

Colombian Avocados Challenge Peru

The global avocado market is a dynamic and rapidly growing sector in agriculture. Health-conscious consumers in developed markets and growing middle classes in emerging markets have driven demand for the superfood to unprecedented levels. Currently, Latin America dominates global avocado production, and Mexico is the world’s largest producer of avocados. Production in the Southern Hemisphere production is dominated by Peru, however, the Chamber of Commerce of Lima (CCL) has recently stated that Colombia is emerging as a dangerous competitor for Peruvian avocados.

The seasonality of Peruvian production has been a major advantage. Exports are available from May to August, complementing the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. This has provided Peruvian avocados with a tremendous window of opportunity, as Peru has been able to supply avocados when sparse product has been available on the U.S. market.

Mexico remains the largest supplier to the U.S., but the Peru’s market share is growing. The long-term prospects for the U.S. market are positive due to avocado’s reputation as a healthy eating choice. Peru first exported avocados to the U.S. in 2009 and Peruvian avocados accounted for 8% of the U.S. import market by 2018. While conventional Peruvian avocados have represented a large percentage of that growth, organic and/or Fair Trade Peruvian avocados are also now being imported into the U.S.

However, Colombia is poised to expand avocado production and become a major player in the global market, despite only recently becoming an exporter. Agricultural production in Colombia is expanding as the country’s 50-year-long armed conflict was finally brought to an end in 2016, land which unavailable for farming due to the conflict is now being made available. Colombian avocado exports have grown from just 1,798 MT in 2014 to 30,009 MT in 2018, with total production at 90,000 MT. This is due to increased domestic supply and plantations achieving the necessary certifications such as Global GAP to provide assurance in terms of phytosanitary, immunity and waste treatment issues.

In the first half of 2019, Colombian exports were up 50% on the previous year. Until recently Colombian producers have been focused on the European market, which accounts for over 90% of exports. In July of this year, Colombia gained access for exports to China, with the first shipments expected by the end of 2019. The retail market for avocados in China is growing at a rate of 72% p.a., and China potentially will become the number one consumer in the world for avocados in the next three years, overtaking the United States. Colombia has also recently entered the Japanese market, and is looking to export to South Korea. Japan imports US$211 million worth of avocados on average per year, with Mexico being the main supplier.

Colombia possesses a huge strategic advantage in that it can provide a year-round supply of avocados. The country’s location near the equator means that avocado trees to go through multiple blooms throughout the year. Orchards are located at different altitudes which also contributes to the year-round supply of fruit. This year’s World Avocado Congress, held in Medellín, helped cement the country’s status as an up-and-coming avocado producer.

Despite its growing success, Colombia still faces some obstacles to exports. According to Raul Polanco of F&P Fruits and Producers, a leading Colombian exporter, said that local authorities need to improve infrastructure to achieve greater efficiency in moving the avocado from the farms to the export plants. Despite this, it is clear that Colombian avocados are set to continue capturing a greater share of global markets.

The prospects for exports from both countries remain favorable; Peru will continue to benefit from growing U.S. consumption. Colombia is in a position to send more product to Europe as well as markets in Asia, and its export growth will outstrip that of Peru. Colombia is emerging as a leading avocado producer with some significant competitive advantages and its success in gaining access to the rapidly expanding Chinese market will help the nation gain ground.