The South African avocado farming industry is booming as local demand is increasingly met by the local crop - with some serious sustainability
By TREVOR CRIGHTON
South African avocado producers are making use of the country’s diverse climate areas to grow crops year-round, meeting the country's demand for the superfruit. Derek Donkin, CEO of the South African Avocado Growers' Association, explains that the planting of different cultivars with varying ripening seasons at different locations and elevations means that the harvest is spread out over 12 months. "Cultivars play a role, but geography is also important. The further north we plant, the earlier the fruit matures, with the opposite true for orchards planted in the south." he says. "We have to make sure before we plant an orchard that the site is perfect for it. There must be sufficient water available for our drip system, the right kind of soil and the ideal mix of nutrients for the cultivar we're planting at that time. We're also very aware of the communities around us, so we make sure that our supply is sustainable and very carefully managed." Clive Garret, ZZ2 says avocado orchards are largely and incorrectly associated with poor water management. However, water consumption is significantly lower than other fruits, and to meet local demand with local products, it gives these imports an undesirable carbon footprint. "The carbon footprint of an imported avocado is significantly higher because it obviously needs to be flown or shipped here," says Donkin. Garrett says South Africa exports around half of its avocados, while ZZ2 sells 70-80 per cent of its crop overseas, with 20-30 per cent going to the local market. "Of that local crop, 10-12 per cent is processed into avocado oil and pulp, used in the commercial production of guacamole."