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    Mexico avocados big in China

    A worker sorts avocados at an orchard in Mexico. China has increased its importation of avocados from Mexico from 470 tons in 2012-13 to 11,000 tons in 2015-16. RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

    Chinese residents are developing a taste for avocados, and officials in Mexico, the world’s largest producer, believe China is a market ripe for growth, as Mexico may be facing possible policy changes by the Trump administration that could affect US avocado trade.

    “Exports of avocados from Mexico to China have substantially increased in recent years. Although total volumes remain small, the growth rate of this market is amazing,” said Ramon Paz of the Association of Producers, Exporters and Packers of Avocados from Mexico (APEAM).

    “We exported 470 tons in the 2012-13 season and it jumped up to 11,000 tons in the 2015-16 season,” he said.

    Clment Mougenot, the research director at Daxue Consulting in China, said in an email that Mexico’s avocado trade with China will continue to increase.
    “Volumes are growing year after year, and we do not expect the trend to slow down for the next five to 10 years if the Mexican avocado association can work out a marketing strategy similar to New Zealand kiwis, and will help the whole Chinese market develop a taste for (the) avocado in general,” he added.

    Most Mexican avocados are sea shipped into China, according to Mougenot. “It takes around 20 to 50 days through this shipping method and the cost through sea shipment is much lower than air shipment. The main ports of entry are: Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong,” he said.

    While China’s growth rate for avocados is increasing, there is some nervousness in the Mexican agriculture community as US President Donald Trump considers proposals like a 20 percent tariff on imports from Mexico. Paz believes that the avocado trade between the US and Mexico would still thrive.

    “We believe that even if tariffs were imposed on avocados from Mexico (to the US) we would continue exporting big volumes to this market, merely because there is no substitute to Mexico. We are the only supplying country that can offer the huge amounts demanded in (the) USA, and the only one able to do it during the 52 weeks of the year,” he said.

    Paz said Mexico has a profitable market in the US, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

    “We shipped 860,000 tons in the 2015-16 season and expect to ship around 800,000 tons in the current 2016-17 season. This represents around 80 percent of the US market consumption,” Paz said.

    Mougenot said that in China avocados are quite popular in Tier-1 cities and that the market is developing due to a

    “Westernization of the food service sector” as consumers become more aware of the fruit. Despite the green color and taste, avocados are not a vegetable but a fruit or single-seeded berry.

    “Restaurants and fast-food chains are also adding avocado to their menus,” he said, noting that Yum China, the company behind Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC (the leading brand of fast food in China with 7,200 stores) have menu choices with avocado.

    Mougenot said very little of the avocado demand is met by local growers in China. “Official data from the Chinese government shows a certain volume of locally-grown avocado (in Guizhou province, for example), but in fact, it is almost impossible to find Chinese-grown avocados in Chinese supermarkets / e-commerce platforms,” he said.

    paulwelitzkin@chinadailyusa.com