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Peruvian avocado leader reflects on progress

lima — As past president of ProHass, Jimmy Bosworth has seen Peru’s avocado industry takes major steps forward in becoming a global player.

Bosworth, who served two three-year terms as president of the organization charged with promoting Peru’s Hass avocado industry, was at the helm as Peru opened new markets, increased consumption and boosted exports of its prized fruit.

“In 1991, Peru exported 200 metric tons of avocados,” he said. “By 2016, that number increased to 180,000 metric tons, and this year we are expecting to export 230,000 metric tons.”

Bosworth acknowledged that Peru had to endure some growing pains on its way to becoming a trusted source for avocados in the global market.

“Three or four years ago, Peruvian avocados were relatively new to the U.S. market and were lower quality, had black skin and grey pulp,” said Bosworth, himself an avocado grower. “Part of the reason for this was because fruit was kept too long before packing and the temperatures used for precooling were too low. As a result, U.S. retailers had low confidence in Peruvian fruit, and it forced us to look for other markets.”

Since that time, growers have refined their techniques and now produce fruit that is on par with the best of any source. And that has not gone unnoticed by importers around the world, as various export markets will be vying for Peruvian fruit this summer.

Currently, Europe is Peru’s top export market and will receive up to 60 percent of the avocados exported from Peru, followed by the United States with 30 percent, and Asia and other markets with 10 percent.

However, the exact percentages could change depending on the market for the fruit with a seemingly unlimited demand.

“In fact, shipments to the United States started earlier this year because volume was diverted from Europe due to the strong market in the U.S.,” he said. “There will always be a minimum that the U.S. will receive, because we want to honor commitments made to retailers, but we also want to get the best return for our fruit.”

New role as WAO chief

Upon ending his term as president of ProHass, Bosworth immediately assumed the role of chairman of the World Avocado Organization, a recently formed multinational entity that promotes Hass avocados to the European market.

As a founding member-country, Peru has taken a lead role in raising awareness about Hass avocados, especially their nutritional attributes.

“Until last year, Peru was the only country investing in Europe,” said Bosworth. “What the WAO is doing is attracting more investment for generic promotions to boost avocado consumption in Europe.”

In addition to Peru, the founding member-countries of WAO are Mexico, the United States and South Africa. The organization also has drawn interest from Chile, Colombia, Kenya, Israel and Spain. Participating countries will contribute an assessment based on volume of fruit shipped to Europe.

“We want more countries to be involved so we have more funds to use for promotions,” said Bosworth. “Right now, we have a budget of only 2 million euro, and promotions are limited to the U.K., Germany, Iceland, Sweden and Norway. With a bigger budget, we could include Spain and other countries.”

Bosworth said the collaborative effort is gaining momentum and he believes it will continue to do so.

“There is a general sense of camaraderie in the industry to work together to raise the category,” said Bosworth. “The WAO is the first world organization that has the same goal to promote the same fruit. I am very confident in this program, but we need a lot of patience to convince those [countries] not on board to participate. But as we can show more success, we will attract more participation. This will have a big impact on consumption.”