Focus: Avocados

Green Giant

Green Giant

Jul. 16, 2013

In 2013, Mexico had 150,000 hectares of avocado fields under cultivation and will export 1.3 million metric tons. There is strong domestic demand, as avocado is a traditional component of many Mexican dishes, some of which, like guacamole, have crossed borders to become popular in foreign markets, thereby stimulating demand for avocados. In 2013, Mexicans will consume 850,000 tons of avocados and export 500,000 tons.

The American public's enchantment with the avocado began in 2007, when US regulators agreed to lift a ban on avocados from Mexico and Central America. Marketing conducted by the Hass Avocado Board, which collects 2.5 cents on every pound of the fruit that crosses the US border, has been hugely successful in recent years. It includes television spots, magazine articles, celebrity chef promotions, and sports-specific advertising. It has definitively linked guacamole with American football and established avocados as an affordable health food connected with the healthy fats and superfood trends; but the event most emblematic of the avocado's success is the US Super Bowl. Enormous bowls of guacamole are ubiquitous during the Super Bowl season. During the week of the Super Bowl in 2011, Americans consumed 79 million pounds of avocados, or nearly 36,000 tons, almost 3% of the total yearly sales.

An affiliation with the strength that guacamole and the Super Bowl now enjoy is one that is here to stay, and sales continue to grow in important regions of the US as Americans integrate the avocado into their diet and culture. In 2012, the avocado led New York's fruit and vegetable market in growth for with an impressive 73% rise in sales volume for the year. Nationally, avocados came in third in annual market share growth at 13% overall, just behind berries and apples.

Mexican avocados sold in the US originate in the state of Michoacán, where 85% of the local crop is grown. No other Mexican state meets the standards set by the USDA for fruit coming into the US, and Michoacán's fields are inspected by both US and Mexican agencies to ensure that all phytosanitary standards are met.

These inspections originated in a 2002 trade row between the two countries. After ratifying the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US still refused to allow Mexican avocados full distribution in its market. The USDA claimed that they posed a risk due to a fruit fly that could contaminate Californian crops, but Mexican growers called the policy protectionist, and trade relations between the two nations soured rapidly. In 2007, the US agreed to imports on the condition that USDA inspectors could examine Michoacán's fields. Although the US consumes 90% of the Mexican avocado crop, regional and overseas markets show strong signs of growth. Japan is the second largest consumer of the Mexican crop, followed by Canada, Costa Rica, and Honduras. The European market is dominated by Israel, but in Japan's growing market and Latin American markets that are being opened by free trade agreements (FTAs) and pacts such as the Pacific Alliance, Mexico's global dominance as an avocado exporter is virtually unchallenged.

Avocado consumption in Mexico's main export market, the US, continues to grow rapidly, and outstrips the growth of both fruit and produce markets by a considerable percentage. This growth shows no signs of slowing as per-capita consumption increases in the US and other markets discover the avocado's appeal. The fruit's potential in emerging economies is also considerable, as consumers with rising incomes seek to enhance and broaden their diets away from traditional fare. The avocado's time in shine may have come.

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