South African Avocado Growers’ Association chairperson Athol Currie told Fresh Fruit Portal the green-skinned market was currently under pressure partly due to large available avocado volumes.
“Last year was incredible for green skins, but with a bigger crop coming in from South America and ourselves, it’s definitely swung the other way. It’s almost two different markets – there’s a Hass market and there’s a green-skinned market,” he said.
“Hass is not too bad, it’s satisfactory when we compare the numbers to last year, but it’s the regular green skins that are coming under pressure.”
Last year farm gate prices reached 60-70 rand per-carton but this year the prices have dropped as low as 30 rand per-carton, he said.
But the industry has the volumes to compensate for the drop in price, according to Currie.
“The guys are getting 20-25 tons per hectare instead of 10, so they can take the knock on a reduced price,” he said.
“Hass is still looking quite strong for us. Quality has been very good this year, it’s been nice, clean fruit.”
The country is still on track for a record crop, wit the latest forecast for 16-18 million export cartons, which Currie said would exceed the previous best by around 4 million cartons.
“There’s quite a strong hunger for development. We’ve got a lot of new players coming in and planting, obviously the main focus is on Hass so we have strong growth and expansion in most of our regions with new plantings, so I think that number’s only going to go from strength to strength,” he said.
The northern-most regions are now complete and the central regions are about around two-thirds through their crop, he said. The southern regions haven’t started harvesting yet and should finish their export season around late October or early November, he said.
The campaign normally winds down earlier, but due to the combination of growth in the southern regions, a larger crop further north in the country, and the pressure on green-skins, he said growers in the south were holding back a bit and would likely start harvesting around July.
Currie has a positive outlook for the future of the South African avocado sector, noting there was an ever-increasing number of people both from inside and outside the horticultural industry planting avocados.
“The world sugar price is under pressure, timber prices are coming under pressure, so guys are looking at alternatives. One of the main alternatives at the moment is Macadamia nuts, but there’s also been a strong surge toward avocados,” he said.
“We’re getting to a time now in our industry where guys who are farming avocados properly – getting good tonnage and good packouts with the right varieties – are going to do well.”