Avocado prices have spiked 50% over the past year – 21 days of cold, wet weather did not help

Business Insider SA
fresh fuerte avocado harvested
Fresh Fuerte avocados. (Image: Getty)
  • Good quality avocados are hard to find and cost almost 50% more than they did this time last year.
  • In September, during the fruit-flowering season, the major producing regions had at least 21 days of wet, cold, and windy weather, affecting the crop.
  • The price of 1kg of avocados has reached R20,91.
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Avocados have skyrocketed 49% over the past year, and good quality ones have been hard to find following three weeks of unfavourable weather conditions in major producing regions during the fruit's flowering season in September last year.

In a single week, the price for avocados surged 22% to R20.91 per kilogram, according to Dr Johnny van der Merwe, managing director of agricultural information group Agrimark Trends (AMT), which tracks weekly prices for fresh fruit and vegetables.

"This price is currently 49% higher than a year ago due to volumes that are trading 32% lower year-on- year," Van Der Merwe said in his weekly video.

Some crucial avocado-producing regions had at least 21 days of consistently bad weather, affecting volumes, said Derek Donkin, the South African Avocado Growers' Association's CEO.

"In a number of production regions, cool, wet, cloudy weather was experienced for three weeks during flowering, which was not conducive to good pollination and fruit set," Donkin said.

Avocado cultivars grown in commercial production regions in South Africa are typically sensitive to water stress, and their branches tend to be brittle and can easily be ruined by wind.

The country's critical commercial avocado production regions are Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and some parts of Mpumalanga, all of which get high amounts of rainfall and frequent mist.

The lower supply of avocados into the domestic market can also be attributed to the alternate bearing nature of avocados with a heavier crop in one year, followed by a lighter crop the next, Donkin said.

2021 is a lighter crop year, he said.

Strike Sebake, managing director for Tshwane Green, a market agent for the Tshwane Market, said avocado supply this year has not been reliable due to only a few commercial avocado farmers concentrating on the fruit.

"This year, the supply wasn't so reliable… It's only a few farms, monopoly farms, that are focusing on [avocados], and if the whole country is going to rely on those few farms, one will run out. You'll have to go to the smaller ones," Sebake said.

And while the smaller producers may be able to supply the market, they encounter many challenges, including logistical ones.

"Avocados are grown everywhere, even in the bush you can find them, and if you're going to pay attention to grading, you wouldn't go for those. In the bush, those are not taken care of, those are not avos you can grade or rely on," he said.

The most popular variant, the Fuertes avocado, is also scarce and good quality in-season Hass avocados are rare, Sebake said.

"It's rare that you find a good quality one; when they ripen, some of them they become black inside, they rot very easily," he said.

Although South Africa has about 800 hectares of new plantings annually, the country cannot meet demand and had to source its avocados from Tanzania at the start of the year.

Donkin said demand for avocados continues to grow in South Africa, and globally, thanks to a growing awareness of health and the market for healthy foods, coupled with the avocado's culinary versatility and trendy image. 

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