Economy February 17, 2024 | 9:00 am

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Joy and concern in the avocado market

Santo Domingo – The DR should continue taking advantage of the avocado market but with responsible crop management not to pay Mexico’s ecological price.

When at a food fair held in the United States in October 2019, José Acosta watched Dylan Williams’ reaction to tasting a tropical avocado or Cáscara Verde; he was dazzled.

He knew about the growing demand for avocado worldwide due to its well-earned fame as a superfood. Still, he did not imagine that this variety would captivate the epicurean’s taste as much as that of the American, whom he heard express that nothing was missing in the tasting.

From that moment on, his conviction that the demand for the Cáscara Verde avocado is assured flew higher. Not surprisingly, the reaction of Williams’ palate adds to the joy of consumers worldwide for avocado consumption.

The global market value of this fruit reached $13.97 billion in 2021, and some predict it will exceed $26 billion by 2030.

Avocado (including all varieties and all destination markets) is the third largest edible agricultural product exported by the Dominican Republic, below cocoa and bananas.

In 2023, fruit exports totaled US$97.2 million after rising to US$67.5 million in 2020, US$77.9 million in 2021, and US$79.7 million in 2022. These figures place the country as one of the largest avocado producers in the world, ranking fifth globally.

The United States is the primary market for Dominican avocados, accounting for approximately 48% of total exports.

This market is growing, and new markets are opening for the country, such as Jamaica, in the Caribbean, whose government recently opened imports of Dominican fruit after eliminating phytosanitary restrictions that prevented access to that market.

The country has been prosperous in the different varieties of avocado it grows (especially Hass and Green Peel, because the Dominican Republic has the advantage of being an island located in the tropics, where the fruits receive a lot of sun, and that is reflected in the quality of the fruit; but in the Green Peel niche, it has a unique potential.

This explains why a strategy was worked on between 2015 and 2020 to turn the country into the first major world exporter of Green Peel avocado, which the United States Department of Agriculture funded.

As part of that strategy, in August 2022, they eliminated the descriptions that the United States had with producers of the same variant in the Florida area, which hindered access to Dominican fruit.

Dominican exporters have taken another step to strengthen their participation in the U.S. market: they have created the collective brand Dom Tropical Avocado from the Dominican Republic, which will identify avocados produced in the Dominican Republic for export to the western United States.

While this is happening, Mexico, the leading exporter to the United States, is facing difficulties due to intensive avocado production that has generated a loss of biodiversity, extreme weather conditions, and extensive soil degradation to the point that an environmental catastrophe is already feared.

This should serve as a lesson for the Dominican Republic, which should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the world’s avocado market but with responsible management of this crop.

This means that the proper areas for its cultivation must be delimited, and obvious rules must be established for its management to preserve the environment.

Among the recommendations to reduce the carbon footprint caused by avocado cultivation is to prioritize polycultures over monocultures, which reduces erosion rates by 50% and lowers the accumulated energy demand by 7.4 times.

Studies have confirmed that, in particular, associating cocoa and avocado crops allows for good carbon fixation, which contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If the country takes these steps, it will ensure the sustainability of the avocado business and continue to please consumers’ palates at an environmental cost that is not as high as the one Mexico has begun to pay.

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