Volumes of fair trade South African avocados exported to the UK are set to more than double this year as demand for ethically sourced produce soars.

The South African Avocado Growers' Association said that multiple retailers were increasingly eager to buy South African fair trade avocados, which would represent 5% of volumes this summer compared with less than 2% last year.

SAAGA said that because South African producers operated under such strict employment regulations, the switch to fair trade status was a fairly straightforward task.

As the market for fair trade avocados grew, so the numbers of accredited producers was expected to increase, it said. Total South African avocado volumes this year are expected to reach 10.5 million 4.5kg cartons, slightly down on last year, but with ample supplies ?still available for the EU.

UK-bound fruit is due to arrive any time now to kick off a season running until October.

SAAGA chairman Claus Lippert said that a summer PR campaign would be repeated for the 12th year running and would include an endorsement by Nicky Hambleton-Jones, the South African star of the C4 show Ten Years Younger.

Lippert added: "Our consistent marketing, promotion and consumer PR campaign has been very successful and UK household penetration levels have increased substantially.

"Some 1.8 million more new consumers regularly enjoyed avocados last year. In 2000, household penetration was 16%, by 2003 it had risen to 18.1% and last year it reached 23.8%."

Some 52% of South African avocados available this year will be green skinned fruit, and Fuerte will account for 60% of this. The remaining 48% will be Hass. A third of all South African avocados will be ripe & ready this year. About 10% of total export volumes will be organic.