Op-Ed by Jessica Horst
Over the past few years, surely, everyone noticed the surge in avocado popularity. From a dietary fad to a hipster trend to a meme and more, the avocado has drawn plenty of media attention. While consumers continue demanding more avocado toast, agriculturalists have been working on new avocado initiatives. Surprising to many, Israeli agronomists are taking a particular interest in the avocado market.
Known for producing superior quality crops, the Central Arava region of Israel has begun to curb seasonal shortages with locally grown fruits and vegetables by replacing some traditional produce, like peppers or tomatoes, with popularly demanded non-native crops. Rather than import produce from other countries, Israeli growers have taken on a diverse range of crops to sell throughout the year for consumers. Israeli Farmers have planted an estimated 7,000 hectares, about 7,000 football fields, expected to yield more than 115,000 tons of avocados for local and international consumption. The region’s focus project is to supply locally-grown avocados across Israel and then to increase the fruit’s potential for export.
Israeli avocado research focuses on fertilization, irrigation and fertility improvements. Most research is aimed at increasing crop yields while simultaneously improving profitability. While 90% of avocado exports are handled by Mehadrin and Galilee Exports, the government-funded Volcani Institute is sponsoring a team assigned with breeding and selecting new avocado genetic variations. Successfully, the Volcani Institute advances include the patented Israeli Galil avocado, and the Hass-like Naor and Lavi breeds. Noted for developing disease-resistant and more nutritious strains of numerous fruits and vegetables, including avocados, Israeli scientists are expected to continue improving their hybrid crops.
Israel’s competitive advantage is the expanding selection of avocados that ripen at different times during the seasonal growing period which also extends the period of Israeli avocado sales in Europe. With a $41.7 million income on avocado exports, we can expect Israel to maintain its almost 1% share of global avocado sales. Relatively speaking, this export rate is impressive for a country only slightly larger than New Jersey. Due to the distance between Israel and the USA, unfortunately, you won’t be able to find Israeli avocados here in your local DC grocery store.
By supporting locally grown foods, Israelis are also eating foods better for their health and contributing to a sustainable regional economy. Often, exported produce is harvested before truly ripe so that the crop is edible longer. Buying locally, Israelis are receiving fresh, ripe and nutrient-rich foods. Supporting their community members, customers are also sustaining healthy green space in their area. As avocado cravings increase steadily each year, the fruit is considered one of the nation’s most promising agricultural segments. Sadly, you can’t get a sample in the USA, we recommend enjoying the creamy Israeli import next time you’re abroad.
Jess is from New Holland, Pennsylvania and a senior in the Kogod School of Business. Jess is the co-founder of Student Israelity and is responsible for website management and design. As a program's assistant at the Center for Israel Studies, she has particularly developed her interest in Israel’s agricultural and sustainability practices. Now a Hasbara Fellow, Jess recently returned from a three-month stay in Israel.