1/26/2013

Where do avocados come from?

Nearly two-thirds of avocados are produced by four countries in the world:  Mexico is the overwhelming leader accounting for nearly one-third of world’s total production.  Chile, the United States, and Indonesia come next in line with each representing about 8% of the globe’s total production.    The overwhelming bulk of avocado production is generated in California with Florida being the other state with significant acreage committed to Avocado trees.    Other important contributors to global avocado supply include the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.    Much of the production is concentrated in these particular areas as avocado trees require moderate climates being very sensitive to freezing temperatures.  

The avocado is native to Mexico.    It is referred to as a climacteric fruit – similar to the banana – in that it matures on the tree but ripens off the tree.   Commercial management of avocados is therefore similar to bananas – many picked early and kept in coolers until they reach their final shipping destination to achieve optimum ripening for the marketing process.    Each tree usually produces between 50 and 70 lbs of avocados on an annual basis.   Several varieties of avocados exist; however, the Haas variety is overwhelmingly the most prevalent of commercially grown avocados.   

Growing avocados requires significant commitment of time and resources.   Trees are propagated by seed, but take roughly four-to-six years prior to bearing any fruit.    And yes, though often mistaken for a vegetable, the avocado is indeed a fruit.   It’s commonly referred to as the “alligator pear” because of its inherent shape and unique dark green, rough outer skin.   The average avocado contains approximately 300 calories and is renowned for its high unsaturated fat, protein and potassium content.    Such nutritive components make it especially popular with individuals trying to lose weight using the Mediterranean Diet.  

The bulk of the world’s avocados are consumed in Mexico.  However, the world’s consumption growth during the past decade is attributed to the fruit’s growing popularity in the United States.    Per capita avocado consumption in the U.S. has nearly doubled over the decade and is now approximately 4-to-5 lb/person.   To meet that demand, the U.S. is a net importer of avocados with well over half the country’s supply coming from other countries.   The growth in demand now places the avocado similar to other more common fruits such as pears, peaches and fresh grapes.    Avocados represent a $20 billion dollar industry in the U.S.  

Avocados are best known as the primary ingredient in guacamole.   And September 16th is designated as National Guacamole Day.    More popular consumption days, though, occur on Cinco de Mayo, the Fourth of July, Super Bowl Sunday and Easter each accounting for nearly 5% of annual sales, respectively.     However, avocados are increasingly used in a variety of ways including butter replacement, sandwich garnishes and even included in ice cream!

**Source: Nevil Speer