More people are paying attention to healthy lifestyles and avocados meet that need. The consumption of the fruit increases every year.
Even western fast food brands such as KFC and McDonald’s are being forced to address the changing tastes of their consumers. The production can’t keep up with the demand. How can we make sure that also small-scale farmers in developing countries profit from this boost?
The Netherlands are one of the biggest importers of avocados
The consumption of avocados increases 3 percent per year. After the United States, the Netherlands are the biggest importer of this fruit. Avocados consumed in Western countries are imported from countries where many people are striving for a better income, like Chile, Peru and South Africa. The growing demand for this cash crop therefore offers opportunities for those working in agriculture. But only when they are really able to profit and their working conditions are good.
The good news: this is often the case. The product is in the spotlight and from the avocado sector there is healthy pressure for good and responsible production. Also, government supervision has improved much, especially in South Africa and Peru.
Smart interventions contribute to this development. For example, with support from the Dutch Albert Heijn Foundation and ICCO expertise, a group of South African farmers has been trained to grow their own avocados. They now run a successful community farm owned by the farmers themselves. They sell their harvests to a big supplier company that makes good use of the additional stock and takes care of packaging, cooling and transport. And that is how these avocados, among other places, end up in our local supermarket.
Sustainable value chains by supermarkets
Yet, not only parties over there should pull their weight; we also carry responsibility. Because eventually, different from what you might expect, it is retailers like the Dutch Albert Heijn and Jumbo who have the most influence. That is why in 2010, ICCO supported the signing of a covenant by a wide coalition of supermarkets, trading companies and civil society organizations. Together they agreed that in 2020, all their fresh fruits and vegetables should be produced sustainably. What really makes a difference is that supermarkets themselves want to make their value chains sustainable.
In addition to suppliers and the sector, the consumer can also do their bit. By being aware that there is a flipside to our needs. By remaining critical and asking questions, for example about the amount of water needed for production. By choosing certified fruit as much as possible. The growing group of discerning consumers is an important target group for retailers.
It is in everybody’s best interest to make value chains more sustainable. And knowing that your avocado has been produced in a fair way and helps people elsewhere make a good living makes it all the more delicious.
Wim Hart, Board ICCO Cooperation.