Add Colombia to the growing list of avocado suppliers to the U.S. market.
While in Colombia in mid-August, Vice President Mike Pence announced U.S. approval of the imported fruit after a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
The wheels had already been in motion for the action well before Pence’s South American trip.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed market access for Colombia avocados in October and reopened a public comment period in January.
In its final rule announcing approval, the USDA said Colombia exports to the U.S. could grow to 8,000-12,000 metric tons of fresh avocado annually to the U.S.
The USDA said that if the U.S. does imports between 10,000 and 12,000 metric tons of fresh hass avocado fruit — considering a 20% displacement of avocado imports from other sources — the decline in U.S. avocado prices may range from 1% to 1.5%.
Based on 2016 statistics, Colombia’s projected exports of 12,000 metric tons to the U.S. would equal 1.3% of total imports, ranking it fifth behind Mexico (91% of imports), Peru (4%), Chile (3%) and the Dominican Republic (1.8%).
The opening of the U.S. market could double exports of Colombian hass avocados, according to estimates from the government of Colombia. Colombia’s avocado exports of 19,000 metric tons in 2016 were primarily shipped to Europe.
Harvest of hass in Colombia continues most of the year, with peak supply between October and March.
In July, Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce announced it has a formal marketing and distribution agreement with Colombian avocado grower-packer Cartama.
Jim Donovan, senior vice president of global sourcing for Mission Produce, said the company expects the first commercial shipment of Colombian avocados shortly after the Sept. 14 opening date.
“The big challenge for new sources coming to the U.S. is actually creating the work plan, getting inspectors trained and in place, certifying farms and packhouses,” he said in an e-mail.
Because there are not many farms that are ready to come to the U.S. immediately, Donovan said he expects about 1,500 to 2,000 metric tons to be exported to the U.S. in the 2017-18 season.
Donovan believes avocado production will increase in Colombia, with growers expected to expand acreage by more than 50% by 2020.