a year-round harvest
Avocado (Persea americana Miller) is the fruit of the tree from the Lauraceae family, also known as alligator pear. Approximately 400 varieties exist. The tree reaches about 30 meters in height, although when it is cultivated it normally does not grow more than 5 meters tall. What stand out from the tree are its olive-colored, pear-shaped fruits with a green yellowish pulp and a large central bone with two cotyledons. We are able to find fruits with different forms and colors that weight up to 2 kilograms.
Avocado is an important source of vitamins A, C, E, thiamine (vitamin B1), calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and other minerals, that make it a natural multivitamin. But avocado’s main nutritional purpose is its great contribution of antioxidants and monosaturated fats that are very useful in treating elevated cholesterol levels.
The avocado is native to the highlands of Central Mexico and Guatemala. The oldest evidence of this fruit was found in a cave located in Coxcatlán, Puebla and dates back to 10,000 years B.C. After the conquest of Mexico, avocado was introduced in Spain in 1600 and from there to areas that had the environmental conditions ideal for its development, reaching the Caribbean in 1700.
Avocado can be cultivated from sea level to an elevation of 1,800 meters. Temperature and precipitation are the two factors that mostly impact the crop’s development. Regarding rainfall, 1,200 mm well distributed annually is considered sufficient, since prolonged droughts cause the leaves to fall, which reduces the yield. Excessive rainfall during blooming reduces production. Medium-texture soil is best for cultivating avocado, because of its good drainage and depth, with the absence of hard layers and a neutral or slightly acidic pH. Land used for this crop must have good natural protection from the wind or, in its absence, a windproof barrier should be established, preferably one year before the start of the plantation. Lands with up to a 15% incline are considered appropriate since the field must be designed to minimize erosion.
Numerous avocado varieties exist, although the most well known are the Mexican, Guatemalan, and Antillean, which are subdivided into numerous classes, among which are the Hass, Fuerte, Bacon, Pinkerton, Gwen, Reed and Zutano. Of all these, the most popular variety is the Hass, grown throughout the whole year.
World avocado production
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), world production of avocado has reached 4.4 million metric tons, of which Mexico represents 28.5% of the total, followed by Chile, with 8.3%, and Dominican Republic, at 6.7%. Other great producers are: Indonesia, Colombia, Peru, United States, Kenya and Brazil.
Avocado planting and production in the Dominican Republic
The first avocado commercial plantations were established in Altamira, Guánico and Moca. Afterwards, it spread throughout the country becoming one of the preferred shade trees. However, larger plantations were developed with grafted plants from the Semil, Choquette, Hall, Lula, Booth, Wilson and other varieties. Also, the Hass variety was used in the new plantations established in the highlands of Calimete, Elias Piña and San José de Ocoa. Currently, farmers consider it to be one of the most profitable fruit trees. It is estimated that close to 8,250 producers of this fruit exist in the country. In the year 2011, crop area covered 10,647 hectares, with a production level of approximately 650.5 million units at an estimated value of 4,468 million pesos, that same year. Nineteen different avocado varieties are currently cultivated in the country, led by the Semil-34 that represents 64% of production. Followed by the Hass with 13% and to a lesser degree the Choquette, among others. One noteworthy result is that this fruit can be produced throughout the entire year. Avocado is grown in 14 provinces and municipalities in our country, which are: Elias Piña, Moca, Altamira, San Cristobal, San José de Ocoa, Mao, Montecristi, Dajabón, Barahona, San Juan, La Romana, El Seibo, Baní, and Duvergé.
Avocado exportation and its contribution to the national economy
According to Central Bank data, 10,168 tons of avocados were exported in 2012, although international sources indicate even larger quantities. These avocados are mainly exported to the United States. However, there are also peak times between May and September to export avocados to the European Union, when competition from Spain and Israel is weaker and prices are higher. Given the importance gained by avocado exports, the National Competitiveness Council, the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD) and the Avocado Cluster produced a technical audiovisual guide on growing this fruit, called: “Better Avocados for Competitiveness”. The purpose of this guide is to increase the quality of the product and boost exports.