Spain: Avocado, the most fashionable fruit in Europe
The avocado sector in Spain invoices €124.7 million per year and expects to reach a production of 1.15 million tons in 2023.
This tropical fruit, brought from America by the Spaniards, has been implanted in the country and it is in one of its best moments given the boom it has experienced in recent years for its extensive healthy and nutritional properties. In fact, its consumption in Europe is growing exponentially, up to 650 million kilos in 2018, of which 74 million correspond to Spain.
Growing avocado in Spain is focused in Andalucía -97% of total production- and particularly in the province of Málaga -70%-. The cultivation acreage is around 19,000 hectares, producing 61,000 tons during the 2018/2019 season, 17% more than the previous one.
The growth forecast for the next years is 14% annually and in 2023 it is foreseen a production around 1.15 million tons.
However, the last season turnover, €124.7 million, was 12% lower than the last one. The kilo average price was also lower, being for Hass 2.1-2.7 €/kg, compared to 2.6-3.16 €/kg of the 2017/2018 campaign.
Despite being the first European avocado producer, Spain is not among its larger consumers at all. With an average of 1.2 kg/person/year, it is far from the Germans (3 kg) and the French (1.8 kg).
Spanish growers mainly cultivate the Hass variety (51,000 tons in 2018/2019). The remaining 10,000 tons correspond to other varieties such as Fuerte, Bacon or Reed.
It is a sector in constant innovation, especially regarding water use in irrigation, genetic improvement and cultivation techniques. However, its yield outside tropical areas close to Ecuador (where it reaches 12,000-14,000 kg) is quite far from it; in Málaga, yields do not exceed 6,000-7,000 kg.
One third of total exports to Europe is managed from Spain – where avocado is produced from December to May- including production from third countries.
A sustainable crop outside the tropics
Much has been written about the avocado sustainability regarding the needed amount of water, being a tropical crop. According to a FAO and University of Twente report, growing avocado requires an average of 1,000 l/kg, less than the citrus fruits or bananas. Other crops such as almonds or cocoa need 4,000 and 7,000 liters, respectively.
A representative of the Institute for Tropical and Mediterranean Horticulture “La Mayora”, belonging to the University of Málaga, informs that there are avocado varieties tolerant to salinity and water stress. He adds that, in Málaga and Granada, most growers have reduced the amount of water to 700 liter/kg. Besides that, there is an ongoing project to reduce that figure to 500 liters.
The avocado also has greater capacity to fix CO2 to the soil than other crops of its characteristics.