The avocado industry has not been spared the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic. As volumes of avocados on the market increase with the South
African harvest getting underway, demand in Europe and South Africa has been somewhat suppressed.
Derek Donkin, CEO of the South African Subtropical Growers’ Association (Subtrop), said avocado sales on European markets had been negatively affected.
“Presently, sea ports and airports are still functioning with negligible disruption due to COVID-19. Where there are longer logistical chains in Europe, for example trucking
fruit from Rotterdam to Eastern Europe, there have been issues, due to reduced availability of transport and more stringent border checks.”
With many cities across Europe in lockdown, restaurants had drastically reduced their output, which was affecting avocado consumption. Lindie Stroebel, country manager
at Mission South Africa, said the hospitality industry used mainly greenskin avocados and those falling in the Category 2 and 3 quality perimeter, which meant that more products
were now available on the market.
“We expect that much of this will end up on the local market, although we’ve not seen huge reductions in prices as a result just yet. Prices might come down as demand reduces in the
weeks ahead, but I don’t think it will be drastic reductions. At this stage, we’re taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.”
She said she expected the same situation to start playing out in South African restaurants as business decreases with COVID-19 exposure limiting procedures in place.
Donkin added that on local fresh produce markets, a slowdown had been noticed, probably due to reduced demand from the food service sector.
“Presently, the informal sector is still purchasing avocados from the national fresh produce markets. Sales of South African avocados through supermarkets, both locally and on the European market, have not been affected.”
He said that although it could not be predicted if demand would be down for avocados as a result of COVID-19, reduced demand usually resulted in lower prices, as with any product.
“The South African Avocado Growers’ Association (SAAGA) continues to promote the avocados locally as it has done for more than 20 years. We’re optimistic that demand for a nutritious fruit such as avocados will remain good. The World Avocado Organisation, of
which SAAGA is a member, continues to promote avocados in Europe in a similar way.”