Avocado toast. (Savanna Swain-Wilson)
  • South Africa and Tanzania are very close to checking the final regulatory hurdles that would allow avocado imports.
  • Travel restrictions caused some trouble, but authorities have agreed on how to get around the inability to do standard inspection visits.
  • Local growers support the plan.
  • That should see Tanzanian avos on South African shelves by next season – which may help keep prices down.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Avocados from Tanzania should be on sale in South Africa before the next season – and may help moderate prices currently above R30 for a single fruit in some instances.

The governments of South Africa and Tanzania have agreed on how to finalise verification of phytosanitary measures without physical inspection, which is between hard and impossible due to Covid-19, a trade group said this week.

Making sure imported avocados do not come with dangerous pests should be the final major hurdle for imports, so all requirements are now expected to be met in time for Tanzania's next major harvest in May.

That, in turn, may help keep down prices in South Africa.

SA has seen an acute seasonal shortage of avocados in early 2021, despite very large local production volumes. Meanwhile Tanzania has been aggressively expanding its avocado growing, from near-zero a decade ago to export values now being counted in the hundreds of millions of rands.

Some 50,000 farmers in Tanzania are now estimated to be involved in avocado production, with exports going mainly to Europe. Top-end fresh avocados feature on the shelves of several major supermarkets there.

The bio-safety plan for Tanzanian avos in SA has been in the works since mid-2020, and at least one importer had hoped to import fruit for local processing. But the inability to verify the measures in place in Tanzania contributed to delays.

South African growers, which have struggled to keep up with demand, have supported the process of certifying Tanzanian fruit for import. In other markets, most notably the USA, importers have argued that more stable prices, and fewer shortages, have benefited local producers through higher demand and prices.

The area planted with avocado in South Africa is growing by about 5% per year, but trees take six to eight years before coming into full production. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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