Competition grows as South Africa focuses on Chinese US$105m avocado market

CHINA – The Chinese avocado market has in recent years attracted major African producing countries as they seek to gain a share in the highly valued US$105 million market.

Most recently, the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa’s said that the country’s avocado industry should focus on tapping into the growing Chinese market to improve its growth prospects.

Agbiz, which represents commercial farmers and agribusiness enterprises nationally, said the move will facilitate achieving export-led growth in agriculture an improve performance of the local avocado industry.

According to a report by Business Day, Agbiz notes that the industry has generally performed well in recent years owed to the 72% growth in production recorded between the 1994-95 and 2016-17 production seasons hitting 77,508 tons.

According to data from the department of agriculture, forestry & fisheries, the country exported, on average, about 67% of its avocado output between the periods.

Exports to China, as a major market for South Africa’s avocado, grew from 4-tons in 2008 to 43,859 tons in 2018, data from the Trade Map reveals.

In the wake of growing global demand, production in the country has also expanded predominantly from Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces into KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces resulting inti an all year round production.

According to Wandile Sihlobo, head economist at Agbiz, though not among the top 10 global avocado-producing countries, SA holds a prominent place in the global export market ranking world’s eighth largest avocado exporter in value terms in 2018.

Comparably, Kenya featured in the top 10 global avocado exporters, ranked seventh-largest exporter in 2018 and the continent’s leading producer of avocados.

In 2018, Kenya accounted for a nearly 30% share, twice the volume produced by SA, highlights Wandile.

However, for Kenya, major markets of the commodity included the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, France, Saudi Arabia and the UK and has further entered into an agreement with China and Mauritius for export the fruits.

Markedly, China has been earmarked as an important market for the commodity after Tanzania also unveiled plans of expanding its market into the country.

“China is an important and growing market in the global avocados sphere ranked as the ninth-largest importer in 2018,” said Sihlobo.

Currently, the Chinese avocado market is majorly supplied by Peru, Mexico, Chile and New Zealand with Sihlobo adding that if growth continues over the coming years, Kenya stands to as well benefit from it.

While SA’s traditional markets for avocados have served the country well over the past few years, Sihlobo said it would be useful for the country to also explore the Chinese market given its enormous growth in the recent past.

“Moreover, as plantings continue to increase across SA, with industry players suggesting that about 1,500ha will be added to the current area plantings of 17,500ha each year within the next five years, new markets will be needed for the added supply,” said Sihlobo.

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