Avocado production continues to climb steadily ©123RF
Avocado production continues to climb steadily ©123RF

Global avocado shortage fails to dent demand

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
6 October 2017

Drought and flooding have caused global shortfalls in the supply of ‘green gold’, while demand continues to rise

Perhaps it is a measure of how far the not-so-humble avocado has come that it is now the stuff of royal gifts.

When Prince William paid an official visit to a leisure centre in Merseyside this September – leaving Kate at home, suffering with severe morning sickness – a little boy very sweetly handed over an avocado tied with a ribbon. Young Archie’s mother also suffered from morning sickness and eating avocados had proved effective against nausea.

The fruit’s appeal shows no sign of abating, riding a wave of hipster popularity – usually the Hass variety in the US and western Europe. US consumers are spending almost $900,000 a month on avocado toast, according to payment company Square. In June 2014, the figure was just $17,000, but by June 2017 it had reached $890,500.

In New Zealand, thieves are raiding orchards at night and selling the fruit at roadside stalls, small shops and even on Facebook.

Wholesale prices have spiked recently following a reduced crop in California this year, which has put pressure on Mexican supplies, according to Mintec. In the UK, wholesale prices hit 86p a fruit in September, the highest since October 2016 when it was 92.5p – on the back of growing demand and a drought in California.

The cost of avocados has even been blamed for the difficulty young people are experiencing getting onto the property ladder. Australian real estate magnate Tim Gurner said the millennial habit of dining out on coffee and smashed avocado was one of the reasons the younger generation can’t afford to buy homes.

Controversy and shortages aside, global avocado production continues to climb steadily, from 2.7m tonnes in 2000 to 5m tonnes in 2014. Peru is the biggest supplier to the EU, according to the Hass Avocado Board, with 318m lbs imported in 2016. Chile comes next with 201m lbs, then South Africa on 115m lbs.

South Africa just pips Mexico, which provided 114.3m lbs of EU imports, despite being the biggest global producer and the birthplace of avocado consumption almost 10,000 years ago, according to archaeologists.

The word avocado is believed to derive from the Nahuatl word ‘ahuacatl’, meaning ‘testicle’. But probably keep that to yourself when serving them in a salad to your in-laws.

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