It is hard to imagine where South Africa’s horticultural sector would be without effective trade policy. The recent expansion in South African horticultural production has largely been export driven. One fruit that clearly mirrors this is avocado.

South Africa produces on average about 90 000 tonnes of avocados a year. This has grown significantly from levels of just under 70 000 tonnes in the early 2000’s. The key driver behind this has largely been an expansion in area planted, which in turn was supported by an uptick in both domestic and global demand.

To illustrate the point of global demand — in the past six seasons, South Africa exported roughly two-thirds of its avocado production. The typical key markets are the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Russia and regional markets such as Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Swaziland.

This year also started on a good footing for South African avocado producers and exporters. The exports for the first quarter of 2018 reached 4 524 tonnes, up by 32 percent from the corresponding period last year, and the largest volume for this period since 2015. About 94 percent of these exports went to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Spain, with the rest destined for regional markets, as well as Portugal, Russia and Lebanon, amongst others.

Other fruits such as citrus, stone fruit and table grapes, amongst others, also mirror a similar trend. One can only hope that South Africa will maintain this momentum and further explore new attractive and growing markets to diversify and support the horticulture industry.

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