Based on current production estimates, the Zambian Avocado industry could potentially produce $210 million worth of Avocados per year. Recently it was announced that the first consignment of 37 tonnes of the ‘super fruit’ was confirmed to be exported to Europe for the first time. As the public rejoice, this consignment turns out to be a drop in this oceanic opportunity. Popular social movements like veganism (there are 79 million vegans globally) and India’s Hindu population have resulted in 14% of the world identifying as vegetarian or vegan. Avocado is becoming one of the most important ‘superfoods’ for the majority of this group, as the fruit can replace the nutritional value of some meats and provides additional health benefits such as vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. This equates to a business opportunity for entrepreneurs who may want to capitalise on this business. In this article we break down the current state of the Zambian Avocado industry, its biggest players and highlight how local entrepreneurs can capitalise on this opportunity.
Zambian Avocados – A Cooperative Business
The Avocado Export Industry in Zambia is estimated to reach a potential value of $30 – 50 million this year. Last month it was announced that a deal with Lusaka Avocado Multipurpose Cooperative (LAMC) and Italian company Alegra SRL was delayed due Covid-19 complications. The deal was reported to be worth $29 million, with Alegra export demand currently valued at $2.4 million per month (based on the production of 960 tonnes of Avocados per month). This presents an essential opportunity for entrepreneurs with experience in the agricultural sector as the average price of the fruit in the local market ranges from K5-7 per fruit. By comparison, Europeans are willing to pay K40 per fruit, while the majority of European avocados are currently sourced from neighbouring South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya. Zambia’s superior tropical environment is ideal for growing hass avocados (the largest avocados for mass consumption), and is likely to ensure demand in the increasingly competitive international market. An increase in nutrition and awareness of the benefits of avocados have caused demand to skyrocket, the industry is projected to be worth $17 billion by 2020.
A few days ago it was announced that the export of locally produced Avocados had commenced. The first 37 tons were approved for export by the Plant Quarantine and Phytosanitary Service (PQPS) under the Ministry of Agriculture. The consignment is estimated to be worth between $100 – $140,000 dollars (this calculation is based on the country of export, for example Germany has Europe highest price of $3,400 per ton while Spain is lowest at $1,900). Buttermere farms, a local farmer with over 38,000 avocado trees (with each tree producing 200-300 fruits per year), is currently the largest known local supplier of Avocados in the market. The farm covers 100 hectares and irrigation began in 2018, with an investment of $480,000 this presents a return of investment of 40% in the first successful export alone. The local demand has been growing steadily meanwhile; in 2020 local growers challenged Freshmark (a leading grocery supplier) for blocking local suppliers, the company responded suggesting a preference for locally grown avocados, insisting it was purely a matter of quantity of supply.
How to grow Avocados in Zambia
“Zambia’s tropical climate is ideal for growing Hass avocado which is the most popular commercial avocado in the world.” A statement by Dr Kenneth Msiska, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Health stated to reporters at Mwebantu. The government has shown support for the industry in the spirit of growing Zambia’s exports.
Currently the most popular seed is called hass avocados. The tropical climate in the country allows a hass tree to grow from seed to full fruit production 3 years. Each tree produces 200-300 fruits per year and will be able to provide fruit for at least 25 years. The initial grafting process of the Hass avocado is complicated and delicate and can be found in the following link. More popularly, a small tree can be purchased from organisations like Plant a Million Zambia for K150. These small trees will require the fruit to be removed for 2 years before the fruit becomes strong enough to hold the fruit.
Conclusion – An opportunity that’s too good to miss
To conclude, the avocado industry presents a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs around the country. The minimal investment requirements for the cultivation of the fruit indicates the market for the supply of avocados as an almost guaranteed business. The industry is a key seen as a priority to the new dawn government and international organisations are willing to invest in businesses looking to enter the industry. The assistance of the USAID Trade and Investment Hub (The Hub) was key in the facilitation of the country’s first export. More than 220 farmers are already currently working with the Avocado Growers Association of Zambia are able to produce up to 40,000 metric tons of the fruit in order to supply the local regional market in South Africa.
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