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Africa Takes Aim at Avocado Market Expected to Reach $26 Billion by 2030

The global avocado market is expected to reach $26.04 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.3%. Africa, already a major producer, is poised to be a key player in this growth. Specific growth projections for Africa's avocado industry are difficult to make, but the industry is poised for significant growth over the next five, ten, and twenty years for the reasons outlined within. Namely, that demand is increasing in the Western economies for avocados, and Africa has inherent advantages including relatively low labor costs and the ability to produce year-round.

man holding a cut avocado with knife in both hands

Avocados offer an underappreciated opportunity for Africa to expand the agricultural products it produces for export to the world. The Continent is already responsible for 20% of global avocado production producing around 1.7 million tons annually. The majority of African produced avocados are consumed domestically with less than 10% of production for export.

African nations supply 60% of the world's cocoa, 22% of global tea exports, have a 35% market share of exports to the EU, and export more than $1 billion annually of fruits and nuts, and coffee.

Kenya is Africa's Top Avocado Producer

Kenya leads the pack producing 345,000 tons, followed by South Africa, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Ethiopia. The avocado industry contributes over $100 million annually to Kenya's economy and is credited with boosting the livelihoods of over 100,000 smallholder farmers. Kenya only shipped 68,000 tons of avocados in 2021, which itself was a substantial increase from only a few years prior.

Avocado trees thrive in Africa because of the climate as the plants thrive in equatorial climates which Africa has in spades. Because Africa permits year-round growing conditions it is able to easily fill in the gap left during the off-season periods in other major avocado producing countries such as Mexico and Peru.

Beyond Kenya to Boost Avocado Production

While Kenya leads, other African nations also make significant contributions to the continent's avocado market:

  • South Africa: South Africa is another major player in the avocado industry, with a focus on the cultivation of the Hass variety. In 2021, South Africa produced around 125,000 tons of avocados. The country is known for its stringent quality standards and has developed sophisticated cold chain logistics to ensure the fruit reaches international markets in optimal condition. South Africa mainly exports to Europe and has been expanding its reach to Asian markets.

  • Ethiopia: With its high-altitude regions, Ethiopia is rapidly growing as an avocado producer. The country's production is geared toward filling the supply gaps in the international market during the off-season months in other producing countries. Ethiopia's government has recently initiated several programs to boost avocado cultivation as part of its agricultural diversification strategy.

  • Morocco and Egypt: These North African countries are emerging as notable avocado producers, leveraging their Mediterranean climates which are ideal for avocado cultivation. Morocco, producing approximately 20,000 tons annually, and Egypt, with similar output, are investing in new agricultural technologies to increase yields and improve the quality of their avocados. Both countries are focusing on expanding their presence in the European market.

The South African Avocado Growers’ Association, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, has extensive avocado R&D programs covering new varieties, rootstocks, orchard management, post-harvest handling, food safety, and pest and disease control.

Several South African universities, like Stellenbosch University and the University of Pretoria, have avocado research initiatives focused on developing genetically modified varieties, using DNA fingerprinting to identify superior rootstocks and controlling diseases and pests like the false codling moth.

The Côte d’Ivoire Coffee and Cocoa Council has implemented an avocado revitalization program that includes research into high-yield, multi-purpose, and early-ripening varieties to boost local production and exports.

Tanzania and Uganda have made strides to develop cooperative movements and partnerships with international agencies to enhance production.


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Opportunity to Boost Exports to EU & U.S.

The EU and U.S. are the largest importers of avocados and demand continues to rise. The EU imported approximately 650,000 metric tons of avocados in 2020, and the U.S. consumption has quadrupled over the last two decades.

usda data and chart showing avocado production and imports to america over 20 years

The EU offers the best market to expand exports of African avocados. Currently, the EU relies on exports from Latin America and Israel to meet its avocado demand. But Africa has advantages including lower labor costs and proximity to European markets. As already mentioned, Africa also can grow year-round and has plenty of land available to allocate to more avocado production.

Tariffs might also be lower if they come from Africa since the African Continental Free Trade Area eliminates tariffs on 90% of goods traded between members. This could be a catalyst to consolidate production through local buyer networks for export at scale.

More Reasons Africa Should Focus on Avocados

One good reason to invest resources in expanding avocado production is that avocados generally fetch higher margins in the international market compared to traditional African exports like coffee and tea. This is the case primarily because the demand for avocados, increasingly seen as a "superfood" by Western consumers, continues to rise each year.

As such, avocados are a high-value crop with a relatively stable and growing market. The moat around the market for Africa is that a limited number of countries are capable of year-round production.

Avocado production supports sustainable agriculture practices due to lower water and pesticide needs compared to other intensive crops. Input costs in Africa are sometimes higher, but since avocados require relatively fewer such inputs, the higher input costs aren't passed on to the buyer.




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