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Mexico's avocado exports to China rise

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-22 10:07

Mexico's avocado exports to China rise

A farmer loads fruit boxes with avocados onto a truck at an orchard in the municipality of Uruapan, Michoacan State, Mexico. AFP

Chinese consumers are developing a taste for avocados and officials in Mexico, the world's largest producer, said China is a market ripe for growth-as Mexico may be facing possible policy changes by the Trump administration that could affect avocado trade with the United States.

"Exports of avocados from Mexico to China have substantially increased in recent years. Although total volumes remain small, the growth rate is amazing," said Ramon Paz of the Association of Producers, Exporters and Packers of Avocados from Mexico.

"We exported 470 metric tons in the 2012-13 season and it jumped up to 11,000 tons in the 2015-16 season," he said.

Clement Mougenot, the research director at Daxue Consulting in China, said that Mexico's avocado trade with China will continue to increase.

"Volumes are growing year after year and we do not expect the trend to slow down for the next 5-10 years if the Mexican avocado association can work out a marketing strategy similar to New Zealand kiwis to help Chinese consumers develop a taste for the avocado in general," he added.

Most Mexican avocados are shipped by sea to China, according to Mougenot.

"It takes around 20 to 50 days through shipping and the cost through sea shipment is much lower than air shipment," he said.

"The main ports of entry are Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong."

While China's growth rate for avocados is increasing, there is some nervousness in the Mexican agriculture community as US President Donald Trump considers proposals like a 20 percent tariff on imports from Mexico. Association of Producers spokesman Paz said that the avocado trade between the US and Mexico would still thrive.

"We believe that even if tariffs were imposed on avocados from Mexico (to the US), we would continue exporting big volumes to this market, merely because there is no substitute to Mexico," he said.

"We are the only supplying country that can offer the huge amounts demanded in the US and the only one able to do it during the 52 weeks of the year," he said.

Paz said Mexico has a profitable market in the US, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"We shipped 860,000 tons in the 2015-16 season and expect to ship around 800,000 tons in the current 2016-17 season. This represents around 80 percent of the US market consumption," Paz said.

Mougenot said that in China avocados are quite popular in big cities and that the market is developing, as consumers become more aware of the fruit. Despite their green color and taste, avocados are not a vegetable but a fruit or single-seeded berry.

"Restaurants and fast-food chains are also adding avocado to their menus," he said, noting that Yum China, the company behind Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC (the leading brand of fast food in China with 7,200 stores) have menu choices with avocado.

Mougenot said very little of avocado demand is met by local growers in China.

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