The European import value of avocados almost tripled in the period between 2013 and 2017. This upward trend is driven by consumer demand for ready-to-eat and health food. It creates opportunities for producers and exporters, especially for the Hass avocado variety, although competition is increasing. The best opportunities are in large consumer markets such as France, Germany, Spain and the UK, which are often supplied through the Netherlands.
The Hass avocado, a Guatemalan race with pebbled black skin, is the main planted variety today. There are new Hass varieties available, such as Lavi Hass, Lamb Hass and Gem Hass. These Hass sub-varieties help extend the supply season.
Fresh avocados are classified according to Size Codes 1 to 30, with a minimum weight of 123 grams (or for Hass 80 grams). In Europe, the preferred sizes for Hass avocados range between size 16 and 20 (for the Fuerte variety 14 to 16).
Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of avocado?
Avocado imports from developing countries continue to grow
Imports from developing countries such as Peru, Mexico, South Africa, Kenya and Colombia are increasing, and their value exceeded a billion euros for the first time in 2017. The remaining European imports, worth around half a billion euros, were mainly supplied by Chile (no longer considered a developing country by the OECD) and Israel.
Since 2015, the total value of imported avocados has developed faster than the volume, indicating good prices for suppliers. In the short term, you can expect the demand to remain high and increasing.
Strong consumer demand all over Europe
Based on production and trade statistics, the total European consumption of avocados is approaching 500 thousand tonnes, which is around one kilo per capita. This consumption rate is still relatively low compared to, for example, the USA where people consume four times as much avocados.
Traditionally France is the largest market for avocados and continues to be so. The United Kingdom, Spain and Germany are also experiencing very strong growth.
Scandinavian countries are much smaller in terms of population but maintain one of the highest consumption rates of avocados thanks to strong promotion and the attention to health food.
The Netherlands is the main trade hub for avocado
The Netherlands is the second largest non-producing exporter of avocados in the world. The country is also responsible for almost half of Europe’s avocado imports. From there, large volumes are re-exported to Germany, France, Scandinavian countries and in lesser extent to other countries.
Large ‘final’ destinations in Europe are France, the UK and Germany. In general, the European market is expected to grow further in the coming years. Nevertheless, the market will remain very competitive and importers favour larger producers because of supply certainty.
Hass most popular avocado variety
The green varieties are losing market share to Hass quickly. Green varieties are mostly sold loose or in small nets, while Hass dominates the market for ready-to-eat avocados. Green varieties are still sold because they have a different harvest period, but Western European countries mainly favour the taste and ease of the ready to eat Hass variety.
The green varieties are more commonly seen in Italy and Greece. There are still prospects for growth for green avocado consumption in Eastern Europe and other middle-income countries that experience economic growth, although these markets do not have the same volume as Western Europe yet. In these countries, the Hass variety is expected to replace a large part of the green avocado consumption in the long term as well.
The consumption of avocado has been supported by new developments such as ‘ready to eat’ and, more recently, frozen avocado. Consumers are prepared to pay a premium price for high quality ‘ready to eat’ avocados. The added value of taste and ripening fruit is setting a new standard.
Avocados that are ripened in Europe and sold as ´ready to eat´, should be picked when mature but well before ripening stage. Fruit must be picked with a dry matter not lower than 23% and must be uniform throughout the parcel.
Attention to health food
Consumers in Europe are becoming more aware of health issues and pay more attention to their diet. Avocado fits well in this trend thanks to its good fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. These health aspects are used in the promotion of avocados and contribute to the increasing consumption throughout Europe.
Fluctuation in supply and price
Avocado has been a growing market for several years. Changes in production planning and climate result in variation of supply and therefore also in prices. In 2014 prices dropped due to an oversupply, while in 2015 and 2016 they started at a higher level because of poor or postponed harvests in Peru and Chile. In general, importers in the European market favour larger producers because of supply certainty.
Demand has remained strong throughout 2018, but prices have dropped steeply again due to an oversupply. Dealing with products like avocados that are growing in popularity can also be risky. This has resulted in a large number of (new) producers and it is hard to predict when supply will exceed demand, or the other way around.
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Source: CBI Ministry of Foreign Affairs