By Lionel Vigil
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Mar. 23, 2023: Due to their high nutritional and versatility in preparation and ways to eat, avocados are the most-consumed tropical fruit in the world. Much of this is due to US demand, where consumption has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. Average US per capita avocado consumption is 9 pounds a year, nearly 3 times that in Europe.
Along with increased US consumption has come increased imports, mostly from Mexico. But avocado imports are also growing from other countries with which the US has free trade agreements, including Chile and Peru. Driven by growing global demand, Peru’s avocado production has increased fourfold over the past 12 years. While the majority of Peru’s exported avocados are sold in Europe, the country’s Hass avocado exports to the US increased by 46.4% in 2022. Peruvian avocados now account for 10% of the US market’s avocado imports.
Avocados are an especially good fruit for rural farm communities. Not only is demand increasing. But avocados can be a high margin fruit. While prices have dropped from the historical high of a couple of years ago, profits on avocados still exceed those on other fruit.
A significant percentage of the drop in profits is due to higher fertilizer costs, driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Growing avocados using sustainable techniques that minimize or eliminate chemical fertilizers and pesticides is one way to maintain higher profit margins.
The benefits for family farmers derived from sustainable avocado production are evident in Peru’s Apurimac region, in the south-central part of the country. Here, family farmers produce organic avocados to meet the demand of consumers all over the world.
Take Candelaria Pillaca, who learned about a savings and credit program that development organization World Neighbors has run in Apurimac since 2007. After depositing small amounts each month, Candelaria took out small loans at low interest to purchase and plant avocado trees. Along with the loans came education on organic fertilizer and pesticides, water conservation and basic accounting.
Avocado sales have added $3,000 to Candelaria’s annual income. This is substantial in both absolute and relative terms, particularly in rural Peru. The added income has enabled Candelaria to pay back the savings and credit group loans and help support two of her children who attend university. In addition to increasing her own standard of living, Candelaria can now provide her children with much greater opportunities than she has enjoyed.
Avocados have enabled Candelaria and other farmers to break the cycle of poverty and build better lives for their families and communities.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lionel Vigil is Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at World Neighbors.