South African avocados head for Japan

South Africa’s growing avocado crop received a boost late last year when Japan lifted its ban on Hass avocados from this country.

South African avocados head for Japan
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This will provide a vital new market outlet for the fruit, which competes heavily against produce from South America in the export market.

The South African avocado industry is a significant contributor to the rural economy. The industry employs approximately 23 000 casual labourers during peak periods. Expanding market opportunities is therefore crucial to ensure the continued prosperity of the industry.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) announced that the ban on export of Hass avocados from South Africa to Japan was lifted effective from 30 November 2023.

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This follows DALRRD and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) having approved a work plan that will ensure the proper implementation of the export protocols of Hass avocados from South Africa to Japan.

South Africa is one of the world’s biggest producers of avocados and ranks amongst the top exporters in the world. The estimated three-year average annual production in South Africa is 139 400t, of which 45% is exported fresh, mainly to Europe, including the UK. The remainder of the crop is consumed domestically, and approximately 10% is processed.

Derek Donkin, CEO of Subtrop, told Farmer’s Weekly that the Japanese market for avocados stood at 70 000t, which meant it could absorb a sizeable portion of South Africa’s crop. “We however will compete in this market with Peru, since their production season mostly mirrors ours.”

Another point to take note of with regards to the Japanese market is that there is little room for growth, since the country’s overall growth statistics are static. Donkin said that for this reason, the Chinese market, which was currently smaller than Japan’s for avocados, held more promise since the former had good prospects for growth.

“Any additional markets are however always good news and the announcement regarding Japan is exciting, and very much welcome.”

To ensure an effective and efficient export programme, DALRRD will begin the process this year to approve and register all places of production and packhouses and designate all facilities in accordance with the approved work plan.

DALRRD will also coordinate, perform and supervise all the activities specified in the work plan and will immediately report and engage with MAFF on challenges emanating from registered places of production, packhouses and designated disinfestation facilities.

Growers of registered orchards are urged to implement good agricultural practices that include orchard sanitation and an effective integrated pest management system. This will ensure that avocados are produced in areas free from quarantine pests of concern to South Africa, and that exports to Japan will not be jeopardised.