A bruising season for avocados

Avocado production has declined by 40% from last year.

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Avocado production has declined by 40% from last year, dealing a heavy blow to the export industry.

“The decline was mainly due to hail damage, with successive major hail storms in most of the major production areas leading to a severe loss of export quality fruit,” said Rudolf Badenhorst, industry affairs manager at the South African Subtropical Growers’ Association.

It was also an alternate bearing year. After a good bearing year like 2010, a production decline of up to 15% generally follows in the subsequent crop. Badenhorst said production dropped from 11,9 million cartons in 2010 to 6,9 million this year. “It’s a huge jump – 40% down,” he said.

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The report said the local market took more fruit than usual. Not only did it absorb hail-damaged fruit, but prices locally were good and the exchange rate was relatively strong this season.

However, losing 40% of revenue was not easy for avo producers and exporters. “The season also ended a bit earlier and there was less fruit to pick, so it would have affected seasonal workers as well. Hopefully we will have a good year next year,” Badenhorst said.

Bram Snijder, Afrupro Exporters production manager in the Tzaneen area, said it was a bad season. “We had problems with hail. We lost 40% of total production and then lost additional income because whatever fruit was left was of a poorer quality. A lot of fruit went to processing because of bruising.”

About 42% of total crop was exported to the UK and other EU markets. Roughly 28% was sold on national fresh produce markets, with 15% sold into informal markets, 9% processed and 6% sold directly to retailers, according to the National Agricultural Marketing Council’s September South African Fruit Trade Flow. – Robyn Joubert

Hail storms in the major production areas cost the avocado industry dearly.