Vietnam eyes US avocado market after Trump spat with Mexico

A woman eats guacamole in this picture illustration, in Mexico City, Mexico April 2, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/ File Photo)

HANOI – Vietnam is seeking to export avocados to the United States, the Southeast Asian country said, after US President Donald Trump’s threat to shut the US-Mexico border raised fears American consumers could see a shortage.

Avocado prices in the United States jumped by nearly 50% in April on fears that Trump would halt shipments from Mexico, which accounts for some 80% of its supply. Both processors and wholesalers began to stockpile the fruit as a result.

The United States imported more than 900,000 tonnes of Mexican avocados last year worth nearly $US2.1 billion, 10 times the value it buys from the rest of the world, according to crop forecaster Gro Intelligence.

Avocados, typically used in guacamole or spread on toast, could be a high export earner for Vietnam, the government said in a statement on its website.

Avocado consumption is on the rise in Vietnam as living standards improve, fuelling interest amongst domestic buyers.

“Avocados are increasingly seen as a quality fruit that can be used in cooking and beauty products for women,” said Le Van Duc, deputy head of the department of crop production at Vietnam‘s Agriculture Ministry.

Avocados are on display for sale at the wholesale market “Central de Abastos” in Mexico City, Mexico January 11, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/ File Photo)

“The area of avocado plantation in Vietnam is rising due to that higher demand,” Duc told Reuters by phone.

That trend has also been driven by weak coffee prices, which have prompted Vietnamese farmers to switch to other crops, including avocados, according to Duc’s department.

Coffee prices hit their lowest in six years this month on fresh concerns over the US-China trade war and strong sales from Brazil.

Vietnam already exports a small volume of avocados to the European Union, but has not yet managed to enter the US market, which is dominated by Mexican supply.

Duc said it was too early to tell if Vietnam‘s drive to export avocados to the United States will be successful.

“There will be lengthy negotiations, and more calculations are needed regarding the possible production scale and the quality to compete with other producing countries,” Duc said.