Which Country Grows the Most Avocados?

At the 2017 International Food Blogging Conference in Sacramento, one of the sponsors was Avocados from Chile1, the avocado promotion agency from that nation. The logic behind their promotional efforts in California is sound:

  • United States avocado growers can’t meet growing U.S. demand
  • The California avocado harvest is typically between April and September
  • Chile is in the southern hemisphere, so the harvest is shifted by six months and runs from September to March2
Avocado toast photo by T. Tseng on Flickr CC-by 2.0
Photo by T. Tseng on FlickrCC-by 2.0

Which Country Grows the Most Avocados?

Avocados from Chile’s presence at the conference got me thinking: Who grows avocados? Where does Chile fit in?  Is production from Chile on the upswing?

Fortunately, one of my favorite statistical databases — FAOSTAT — had the answers3 and Tableau Public made it fairly easy to tell the story with charts.

Below you’ll find an interactive “story” about world avocado production and avocado demand in the U.S.  Click the grey squares at the top to move between three charts. After the charts, I’ll provide some comments. (For a bigger and/or possibly more properly sized charts, check out the autosized version of my avocado story at Tableau Public.)

  • The first chart shows that Mexico is the current avocado giant, with almost 30% of global production.  The second ranked country (the Dominican Republic) produces less than 9% of the global total.
  • The second chart shows Mexico’s dominance and a blur of lines for everyone else.  In the last 10 years, Mexico has increased production by more than 50%. In the last 30 years production has more than tripled.  In the last 50 years, the increase is more than 11 times.  U.S. production, in contrast, has increased by only 5.3 times over the last 50 years.
  • Also in the second chart, Chile had a burst of growth between 1997 and 2007, roughly quadrupling their output, but production has been level since then.  Production is about 1/10th that of Mexico and roughly equivalent to U.S. production.
  • The third and final chart shows approximate U.S. avocado demand in the U.S., which has skyrocketed since 2000, from about 2 pounds per person (0.9 kg) to over 6 pounds per person (2.7 kg).  U.S. eaters are lightweights, though, compared to Mexico’s 16.2 pounds per person (7.4 kg), Israel’s 16.7 pounds per person (7.6 kg), and Costa Rica’s 17.8 pounds per person (8.1 kg) 4.  Most of the U.S. demand increase has been met by imports (see, for example, USDA Economic Research Service chart of avocado imports and production).

When are Avocados Delivered to the U.S.?

In mid-October, one of the “Charts of Note” from USDA that arrived in my inbox was a chart of monthly avocado deliveries to the U.S. market for two periods:  1991-1993 and 2015-2017.  It’s a stark demonstration of how the U.S. demand has changed and how that demand was met.  As the third chart in the Tableau Public story showed, U.S. demand has increased by four to five times since the early 1990s.  U.S. production has remained relatively constant, so the new demand has been by imports:  primarily Mexico (the green lines below) throughout the year, Peru in the summer, and Chile in the autumn.  The January spike could be from high demand for Super Bowl guacamole.

Avocado deliveries to the U.S. by month from the USDA ERS
Avocado deliveries to the U.S. by month from USDA Economic Research Service “Charts of Note,” October 2018

Where are Avocados Grown in Mexico and the U.S.?

More recently (November 2018), the USDA Economic Research Service sent “Chart of Note” about avocado production. This one highlights that avocado production the U.S. and Mexico is concentrated in a few states — California (86% of U.S. production) and Florida (13%);  and Michoacán (78% of Mexico’s production) and Jalisco (8%). Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t show growing regions for the other top producers (Dominican Republic, Peru, Indonesia, Rwanda, Chile).  Perhaps that’s a topic for future research.

Map of avocado production Mexico and the United States, 2018
Avocado production locations in the U.S. and Mexico, from USDA Economic Research Service “Charts of Note,” November 2018

Image Credits
Photo of avocado toast from T.Tseng’s Flickr collection, subject to a Creative Commons License. Maps showing regions of avocado production from the USDA Economic Research Service, “U.S. and Mexican avocado production is concentrated in a small number of States”, not subject to copyright (U.S. Government produced work).

Originally published January 29, 2018. Updated November 24, 2018 with avocado production map from USDA ERS, December 2, 2018 with monthly delivery chart.

Notes

  1. Avocados from Chile’s Twitter and Pinterest user ID are “avocados.” There might be a great story behind how they got the valuable “avocados” handles on those social media platforms.
  2. For more about avocado seasons, check out this avocado season explainer from Bon Appetit
  3. I have used FAOSTAT previously to look at millet statistics and potato statistics
  4. Source: a presentation from the New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association

2 comments

    1. I promise you won’t see an avocado toast recipe here.

      Yes, avocado toast is a silly name. I wonder when the term “avocado toast” came about, and where. People in avocado areas — like Los Angeles — have been eating avocado on bread for decades (or centuries). A fantastic article about avocado toast in Bon Appetit goes way back into mid-20th century Los Angeles, where it seemed to be called “avocado on toast.” After reading that article, I dove into the New York Public Library men collection and found a 1945 restaurant menu with “Open Faced Avocado on Toast” at J.J. Haggarty’s tea room (probably Los Angeles)

      My guess is that “avocado toast” came from Australia, where the dish probably had its major upgrade into something gourmet-ish (details on this in the Bon Apetit article)..

      Interesting factoid: when I put “avocado toast” into Google Books Ngrams, it found nothing (up to 2008, the most recent date allowed).

      Finally, two fun quotes from the Bon Appetit article (there are many more — the author is quite funny):
      “Though nowadays, he adds, it’s probably known as Adjacent Sqirl Heights. It’s a joke. Also not a joke.” [to be sure, this is a pretty LA-specific joke]
      “He’s wearing loafers and a pumpkin-colored cashmere overcoat (in this heat, an act of fashion martyrdom), open at the front to reveal denim with a mom-jeans rise.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.