Avocado production in Peru has grown rapidly, with 15% growth in acreage projected each year for the next five years. ( Courtesy Mission Produce )

Avocados have become a major fuel of Peru’s export business.

In fact, Peru says it now is the No. 2 avocado exporter in the world, after Mexico.

Peru exported 247,000 tons of avocados worth $580 million in 2017, according to the Peru News Agency, which quoted Peru’s Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry (Minagri).

Minagri was quoted as saying avocado shipments increased in volume by 27% and in value by 46% over 2016.

Primary destinations of the fruit — mainly the hass variety — were the Netherlands, U.S., Spain, England, China and Chile.

Avocados now are Peru’s No. 3 agricultural product on the export market, behind coffee and grapes, Minagri reported.

“The Peruvian coast offers superb climatic conditions to develop the fruit with excellent quality,” said Jose Antonio Gomez Bazan, vice chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Peruvian Avocado Commission.

“Peru has been the main driver of market development in Europe, where the fruit is recognized as one of the best coming from overseas.”

Peru has been investing in large-scale plantings since the early 2000s, and some of them are now reaching their full potential, Bazan said.

“At the same time, we have new irrigation projects becoming available, like the Olmos Project in Lambayeque, which has captured a lot of new avocado plantings.”

Higher returns have enabled growers to move from other crops to avocados, said Eric Crawford, president of Sunrise, Fla.-based Fresh Results LLC.

“In some areas, even asparagus have been replaced (by) avocado orchards,” he said.

He cited Camposol, a major Peru-based grower-shipper, as an example.

“(Camposol) took out all (its) asparagus to focus in grapes, avocados and blueberries,” Crawford said.

That enabled Camposol to move from seasonal to year-round avocado production, Crawford said.

The Peru News Agency reported several regions claimed double-digit production increases in 2017, including Ayacucho (up 49%), Arequipa (26%), Lambayeque (20%) and La Libertad (11%).

In addition, the Junin region’s output went up by 7%.

“Other aspects need to be considered are land and water availability ... labor, and, of course new trees,” Crawford said.

“According to some of the big players in Peruvian avocados, Peru plants around 1,500 hectares (about 3,700 acres) of new avocado orchards every year.”

Peru’s avocado industry has all the necessary ingredients for continued expansion, said Bruce Dowhan, general manager of Escondido, Calif.-based Giumarra Agricom International LLC.

“They have the land, they have good extensive growing regions, they have access to water, access to labor,” he said.

Sales into Europe, and afterward, the U.S., spurred growth, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing with Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.

“There’s some large companies that have gone after it really aggressively,” Wedin said.

“Because of availability, they’ve increased supplies to Europe significantly. The avocados have done well in Europe and that kind of spurred them on.”

Then, there’s the climate, said Daniel Bustamante, president of ProHass, the Peru Hass Avocado Growers Association.

“Great farming conditions that can assure fruit quality and productivity,” he said.

“The good market in the past year has encouraged investors to look closer into avocados.”

Peru will continue to ramp up avocado production in the coming years, said Xavier Equihua, Peruvian Avocado Commission’s president and CEO.

“It will continue growing in the next five years at a 15% rate,” Equihua said.

“Peru has an ideal climate for growing avocados. We’re stretching the window by introducing new varieties.”