SOUTH AFRICA – The South African Subtropical Growers Association (Subtrop) has issued a cautionary alert, warning of a looming shortage of avocados from January to mid-February due to concerns over premature harvesting.

Subtrop CEO Derek Donkin emphasizes the importance of growers ensuring that avocados are mature before harvesting to avoid supply disruptions and maintain fruit quality.

“Unfortunately, some unscrupulous growers may be tempted to harvest their avocados before they are properly mature to take advantage of high early-season prices,” Donkin notes.

He highlights the legal consequences, stating, “The sale of immature avocados, which will not ripen properly, is prohibited in terms of the Agricultural Product Standards Act [119 of 1990].”

“Inspectors will be testing the maturity levels of early-season avocados offered for sale, and if avocados are found to be immature, the sale of this fruit will be prohibited.”

The association has reiterated to avocado growers to adhere to the required maturity standards, with Donkin specifying, “For the cultivar Fuerte, fruit moisture content must be 80% or less. Reputable avocado packhouses are all able to carry out the necessary maturity testing.”

Donkin adds that apart from the growers testing for maturity of their avocados, inspectors will also monitor avocado maturity on national fresh produce markets to ensure compliance.

The precautionary advice by Subtrop comes in the heels of a related development in Kenya where the country’s Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) intercepted the smuggling of premature avocados into Tanzania.

A crackdown at the border town of Namanga resulted in the impounding of four trucks transporting avocados, leading to subsequent arrests. AFA acted on a tip-off from an exporter about the illegal transportation of Kenyan avocados across the Tanzanian border.

The trucks were impounded at the Namanga customs office, and legal actions initiated for the violation of the provisions of the Crops Act 2013 and the Crops (Horticulture) Crops Regulations 2020.

This smuggling incident coincides with the official closure of the avocado harvesting and export season for the 2023/2024 fiscal year in Kenya, effective November 3, 2023.

The decision, communicated by the Horticultural Crops Directorate, applies to popular avocado varieties such as Hass, Pinkerton, Fuerte and Jumbo.

In Kenya, to ensure compliance, the Horticultural Crops Directorate issues export clearance guidelines, mandating inspection and traceability information for all consignments, including those from the East African Community region.

The South African Subtropical Growers’ Association (Subtrop) is an association of associations that manages the affairs of the South African Avocado Growers Association (SAAGA), the South African Litchi Growers AssociationLitchi (SALGA), and the the South African Mango Growers Association (SAMGA).

The Association promotes and enables farming, marketing and distribution of avocados, mangoes and litchis. 

 It provides services to its members including management and administration; liaison and communication and research coordination.

It also provides techniocal, generic, market and economic information to aid competitiveness and facilitates market access initiatives to its members.

Further, it liaises with government and relevant institutions on issues of importance to the industry member associations.

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