Industry aiming for extra five million consumers SA switches to direct shipping South African avocado growers in the Tnzeen region will be shipping their fruit direct from packhouses in CA containers this season. Successful experiments convinced a consortium of shipping lines to make 175 containers available with the capacity to handle 100,000 cartons weekly. Historically fruit had to be taken on a long journey south of the port. Initially this will cover 20% of the crop. In coming years the system could be extended to Nelspruit, eventually covering half of EU imports. There has also been more investment in the UK to provide ready ripened fruit following the breakthrough with the Avoscan machine, developed by London University and a South African producer. The prototype, bought by Mack Multiples, has now been joined by two more machines, installed by importers Geest and Minor, Weir and Willis. Chris Keevy, chief executive of the South African Avocado Growers' Association, said this technology will play a useful role in helping the industry to gain five million more consumers worldwide.
Ripe and Ready packs have had major impact on getting shoppers to try the fruit South African growers take expanding view South African avocado prospects are looking good for this season according to Chris Keevy, executive director of growers' association SAAGA. As the first fruit arrives in commercial volumes this week, there will certainly be more shipped this year. Export programmes are estimated to reach 10.5 million cartons, two million more than 2001 when there was a down year. It is anticipated that at least a third will come to the UK with Fuerte accounting for 59%, Haas 41%, and an increase in Ryan, the late season variety. However, longer term the massive expansion which SAAGA had predicted is expected to slow. This is due to planting programmes being reduced as well as the effect of some orchards being destroyed last year by wet weather. Meanwhile there will be substantial increase in Ripe and Ready fruit, chairman Nick Reay told leading importers last week. "These packs have had a major impact on getting shoppers to try the fruit for the first time. "This factor, together with SAAGA's six-year summer promotional campaign, has done more than any other producer country to develop the British avocado market, now valued at £23.7m," he added. Reay is hopeful that the closer co-operation which has already led to year-round information sharing with Kenya, Spain and Israel could ultimately lead to a permanent generic campaign and even embrace other potential suppliers such as Chile and to a lesser extent Mexico.
Spain takes on increasingly competitive role Haas proving key to the UK Spanish avocado production lasting through winter and spring is becoming increasingly competitive with other Mediterranean suppliers to the UK. While yields are biannual, and this year is not expected to repeat last year's record 60,000 tonnes, the effect of growing more bumpy skinned Haas preferred by the multiples is a major element in boosting sales. The variety accounts for some 75% of production while smooth skinned green varieties, also used as pollinators, are exported too. The most significant of these is Fuerte, with lesser quantities of Bacon, Reed and Pinkerton. A new variety showing great promise is Gwen. Currently, Spanish fruit is making low prices of around £2 to £3.50 per carton both because of balances still remaining from South Africa being sold off at around £1 less, and because shipments from Mexico have been encouraged by the exchange rate. Long term, however, Spanish growers believe they have several advantages based on the economies of being the nearest supplier. Packed by hand, exports to the UK by temperature controlled lorries take three days. This will allow growers to match retailers' increasing requirements for ready ripened fruit on their shelves and develop special packs. Spain recently adopted new EU grading regulations which ensures the fruit is well shaped, blemish free, and of consistent size.
SA boosts consumption Summer avocado consumption has doubled in three years according to the South African Avocado Growers Association As the first of the season's fruit start to arrive, executive director Chris Keevy says research last year showed there were 2.6 million new customers as a result of SAAGA's campaign to promote avocados during the summer months. Currently fruit is making £6-£6.50/ctn on the wholesale markets. The initial harvest is arriving in containers four days earlier. For the rest of the season port handling and shipping arrangements have been improved with greater regularly of sailings in comparison with last year which will benefit quality. Keevy predicts total exports of some 8.5 million cartons in line with initial estimates. "We are looking forward to a normal crop which while it is down on last year's bumper figure is still the fourth largest in SAAGA's history," he added.
New type of Haas from SA South African avocado producer Westfalia is introducing the first commercial shipments of a new type of Haas bred on its own plantations this season. It will be available in limited quantities from August until October. UK manager Marios du Plessis said the new variety was much larger with an internal condition which did not discolour. "The general size range for Haas is based on count 15/16, but our new fruit will be in the region of eight to 10, just what the multiples want," he said. "The variety has been registered as Westfalia Haas and will be labelled as such right through to the retail shelf." The company is now selling rootstock throughout the industry, although it will be between four to five years before other growers come into production. Meanwhile, the season currently based on earlier maturing greenskinned varieties has been going well. The switch to a more regular shipping programme has paid off and has been reflected in prices in the market which are around £4.50 to £6.00 per carton. Another factor which could keep demand strong is that there may be marginally less fruit than the original eight million carton export target forecast by the South African Avocado Growers' Association. Some estimates proved to be over optimistic, so the final figure may be around 7.1 million cartons.
Bag this idea for fruit as ripe as you like Importer Greencell may have an answer to the problems of mixed maturity of avocados on retail shelves. Its new modified atmosphere pack can both ripen fruit and hold it for a week when under refrigeration. When fruit is "triggered" with ethylene in the normal way, there is a 75-90% chance it will work. And if fruit is purchased hard it often remains hard in the middle. The home ripening pack is being sold in Waitrose.
Top quality South African avocado growers are reporting this season some of the best quality fruit ever exported this season. The crop is expected to pack out to around 10 million cartons, with an increase in the proportion of Hass available as new plantations come into bearing. By the end of the season this could account for 41% of shipments. It predicts UK supermarkets will also be selling more Ripe and Ready to Eat fruit.