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Avocado farming has a lot. Avocados were introduced to Ethiopian farmers seven decades ago through missionaries.
A recent workshop was held to create awareness about the potential in Avocados which included stakeholders researchers and potential investors.
Helina Getachew, Project Manager of Fruit and Vegetable Export Facilitation at the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporter Association, said even though the fruit was introduced seventy years ago production is very limited and managed by smallholder farmers.
“We have a huge potential but the actual production is very small,” she added. Ethiopia’s rank on the world avocado index is 20th with the share of 1.1 percent, while Kenya and Uganda have a much larger production.
There is data that can show us how to improve, according to experts. One thing that could help is more government attention and recently there has been some progress in that area.
“We cannot say we are working on avocado growth as association, but we have started now and will continue with similar events,” the project manager said.
Currently the fruit has expanded as an export product through the support of USAID and Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MASHAV).
The association also introduced Avocados to its members to encourage them to invest in the business. A capacity building program run by the association is working to improve production reach the export market. “We have invited government officials who are responsible for the sector to raise awareness and help work together on developing the product,” she added.
Djibouti and Yemen are the export destinations for Ethiopian avocados, while small scale export to Europe has begun.
The world import of fresh avocados has increased by 39 percent between 2004 and 2013. Prices globally have also increased from USD 1.43 per kg in 2004 to USD 2.16 in 2013. In terms of value it has grown from USD 706 million to USD 2.77 billion in the stated period.
Ethiopia is able to supply high quality fruits during the off season and has high yields of fruits per hectare due to its climate and geographic location. “The natural ripening season of avocado in Ethiopia is June-September, a season which keeps northern hemisphere suppliers out of the competition,” Ofer Kahani, project coordinator at MASHAV, said in his presentation.
He explained that the fruit in Europe is considered a winter fruit and market prices, particularly in high end varieties are high during the late summer and fall due to lack of sufficient, stable quality supply.
The MASHAV project has supported small scale farmers to expand the fruit on their lands and undertaken massive seedling programs. According to Wale Getaneh, expert at MASHAV, in July 2015 the project performed an export pilot of 3 tons of fresh avocado fruit from smallholder growers to Europe and about 9.8 metric tons in 2016. The product has gotten positive reaction because of its high quality. “The project is planning to export 125 tons of avocado fruits in 2019,” he added.
Two companies including GreenPath Foods are exporting Ethiopian avocados to the European market, which tends to consume a lot of them.
The product is also easy to ship even though it will be at sea for over 20 days.
Mexico is major avocado exporter globally with a 40 percent share followed by Chile and the Netherlands with 15 and 9 percent.
Seven decades ago avocados were introduced by missionaries around West Hararge (Hirna) and expanded throughout the country.