Mexico’s consistent climate and nutrient-rich soil make it a perfect environment for avocado cultivation. The Mexican avocado industry has adapted farming practices to maximize yields and minimize losses due to pests or diseases. As a result, Mexican avocados are among the best-tasting and highest-quality in the world.
In terms of avocado production and exports, Mexico is king, overtaking its neighboring avocado-producing neighbor countries by a huge margin. Based on the most recent available data, Mexico produced 2.4 million tons of avocados in 2021. Of this number, Mexico contributes up to 45% to the international avocado supply, making Mexico the largest exporter of avocados in the world. An annual average of 1.67 million tons of Mexican avocados are sent to other countries. This Mexico avocado export volume is even estimated to increase by 5.2% annually until 2028.
Let’s dig deeper into the factors that bring about Mexico’s leadership in the production and trade of avocados.
Mexico’s leadership in avocado production is highly attributable to the fact that it has about 248,456 hectares for avocado production.
A majority of Mexican avocado production uses the conventional system, which is a main contributor to the scale of the country’s harvest area. These harvest areas are fully utilized because production is generally stable throughout the year, which peaks between April to December. More specifically, Mexico reaches its highest avocado production in December, comprising 10% of the country’s annual production. Meanwhile, Mexican avocado exports peak from January to May.
There are 27 states in Mexico that produce avocados. Of these states, Michoacán reigns, yielding 76% of the Mexican avocado production. This is because Michoacán has the largest harvest area, totaling 181,924 hectares. In addition, Michoacán municipalities have optimum soil and climate conditions that allow year-round avocado growth.
In fact, 10 of Michoacán’s municipalities are the highest avocado producers among all Mexican municipalities.
Given the scale of its production, Michoacán is the only avocado-producing Mexican state that surpassed 1 million tons of avocado production.
Mexico’s next biggest avocado-producing state, Jalisco, contributes 9.2% of the country’s total production.
The US is the largest Mexican avocado importer. From January to November 2022, the US’ imports of fresh Mexican avocado were valued at US$2.7 billion, representing 82% of the US’ total imports. Meanwhile, Mexico also imported 38,723 tons of guacamole to the US in 2022, representing an 8% year-on-year increase.
Michoacan contributes about 2.3 million tons of fresh avocados, valued at US$7.6 million, to the US. In the second half of 2022, the US also began accepting avocados from the Mexican state of Jalisco. Under the agreement with the US, 695 orchards, 9,441 hectares, 11 packing houses, and 10 municipalities in Jalisco will send avocados to the US.
Mexico remains highly reliant on conventional ways of growing avocados. The country is expected to reach further growth in avocado production if it adopts more modern techniques and technologies in growing avocados, such as greenhouses.
Based on the most recent data, in 2020, there were only two hectares of harvested greenhouse areas in Mexico. The small greenhouse operations for avocado production in Mexico only contribute 3.3% of the avocado cultivation. Underscoring this is the 2020 Mexican avocado production, which shows that of the total avocado volumes of 2.3 million tons, only 32 tons were from greenhouses.
However, expanding Mexico’s greenhouse operations for avocado cultivation also entails challenges. In Mexico’s avocado production landscape, which is predominantly grown in open areas, managing pests and diseases is problematic in greenhouses due to adjacent neighbors with conventional management. This setting brings in the potential risk of pesticide drift.
Growing avocados in open Mexican avocado farms also means that the rainy and very cold seasons can be challenging for farmers, and they must use preventive fungicides on their avocado trees. However, this issue will be alleviated with greenhouses, if not fully addressed.
While Mexican avocado production has consistently outperformed other countries, its neighboring avocado producers are growing.
For example, Peru’s avocado volumes increased, becoming the third largest avocado producer in Latin America, replacing the Dominican Republic. The increase was attributable to Peru’s increasing avocado acreage. Peru’s main competitive advantage in the avocado trade is its diversity. Compared to Mexico, which provides the bulk of production to the US, Peru also has strong avocado trade relations with the Netherlands. About 33% of Peru’s avocado exports are exported to the Netherlands.
Similarly, Colombia, the sixth largest exporter of avocados, is also boosting its efforts to send more avocados to the US. It imported over 26,000 metric tons of Colombian avocados from 2018 to 2022.
Mexican avocado trade has benefited from decreased domestic avocado production in the US. In 2021, its avocado volumes decreased by 33.2% compared to the previous year. And this is expected to continue: the California Avocado Commission announced that it is expecting a harvest of 257 million pounds of avocados for the fiscal year 2022-23, which is a slight decrease from the previous period. Central and Southern California, which produces 86% of US avocado production, houses 3,000 farms that are undergoing drought and strict water restrictions.
This paved the way for more avocado imports from countries such as Mexico. US avocado imports rose to a valuation of nearly US$3.3 million in 2022, compared to US$3 million in 2021.
Compared with the drought and water shortages that US avocado production faces, Mexican avocado production is stable throughout the year. While avocado cultivation in Mexico decreases in certain months due to weather changes, its main avocado-producing state, Michoacán, has the perfect soil and climate condition to allow avocado production throughout the year.
Given that Mexico mainly grows avocados in open fields, Mexican growers have huge opportunities to expand to grow organic avocados through greenhouses. This may help increase profit for these producers, since organic avocados cost more than those produced through conventional means.
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