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By Bertus de Bruyn


Drought affects avocado yield this season

Lower volumes of quality avos to hit the SA market soon.

The drought indirectly affected the avocado yield this season, and volumes will be lower than usual this year, reports the Letaba Herald.

“In a sequence of dry years, such as the drought we had, pollinators become limited because food sources are sparse,” said Elsje Joubert, acting technical manager from Subtrop.

According to Joubert, groundwater becomes depleted, which adds to the underlying stress of avocado trees in the most sensitive stages of flower and fruit set, which is usually from August to October.

“When the ambient temperature is warmer and the relative humidity remains low on average, pollen dries out and this affects pollination and fertilisation of the flowers and hence, a reduced fruit set,” Joubert said.

“Avocado growers can obtain an average yield of ±9.3 ton/ha, this is based on an industry benchmark study done in the Tzaneen area. We are currently farming avocado on just over 17 500 hectares in South Africa,” Joubert said.

New plantings result in roughly 1 000 newly planted hectares annually.

Based on an industry survey done in 2016, the avocado growers in South Africa employ one permanent worker on every 2.58 hectares and one seasonal worker on every 2.57 hectares.

Seasonal workers are mainly employed during the harvesting season, which can stretch over four months, depending on the area.

Avocado pack houses employ one permanent worker for every 58 tons packed and a seasonal worker for every 106 tonnes of avocados packed. The total South African production is ± 120 000 tonnes of avocados.

Roughly 45% of Subtrops total avocado crop is exported (roughly 13 million 4kg cartons), 45% is sold locally (direct to retailers, fresh produce and informal markets) and 10% is processed (oil and guacamole).

South Africa is the fifth largest exporter of avocado fruit in the world.

“We mainly export our avocado fruit to the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain. The demand for avocados locally and internationally determines the price.”



Caxton News Service

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