You are used to seeing me mostly talking about livestock farming and crop production. I will admit those are usually my main focuses when looking at agriculture. However, this does not in any way downplay other fields of agriculture. Today I want to talk about fruit farming – the particular focus being avocado farming. I will look at details that will give you a basic understanding that you can use to start a business in avocado farming. Did you know that Zimbabwe stands at number 5 when it comes to the top exporters of avocados on the African continent? So it is definitely worth a shot!
In Zimbabwe, avocados are popularly grown in the Eastern Highlands. There are many avocado varieties that you can choose from. Some of them are Esther, Fortuna, Gwen, Ryan, and Hass, just to mention a few. Just so you, the commonly grown avocado variety in Zimbabwe are the Hass. It takes on average 3 to 4 years for an avocado tree to start producing fruits. This is counting from planting a young tree. If you are to start from sowing seeds then you are looking at anything between 5 to 10 or so years for the fruit production to start.
I mentioned that to show you how best to shorten the turnaround period. Apparently looking for young trees to start with is the best approach as opposed to starting with seeds. There are of course reasons for starting with seeds but if the turnaround period is a big deal to you then consider what I just told you. Whichever way you look at it avocado farming is definitely medium to long term – no quick returns.
The primary thing you need is good land. The land needs to be adequately prepared especially regarding its fertility. This means you will need implements (mechanical or handheld) for land preparation. Organic material and synthetic fertilizers are also required. Chemicals for disease and pest control will come in handy too. You will need seeds or young trees depending on the approach you want to use. Seeds can be bought or you can use those from recently harvested avocados. Either way, you must ensure you source from genuine sources so that you get seeds or trees that have superior and desirable attributes.
Typically seeds can take about half a year to be ready for transplantation. However, those who sell young trees can keep them up to 2 years before selling; this varies though. Seeds can be sown directly into the ground or you can use polythene bags (or any other suitable improvisation). Depending on the prevailing weather conditions and scale of production, irrigation (the best-being drip irrigation) might be necessary too. I am mentioning all this so that you get a picture of what you will need for this farming business.
As always this depends on your scale of production. Be that as it may a substantial amount of labour is needed. Land preparation and the day to day upkeep of the project will need some hands. There will also be routine maintenance processes such as pruning (where applicable), weeding, and the like.
The financial capital needs vary depending on the scale and nature of production. The average cost of production per hectare can be US$12500. This is quite hefty because it is all-inclusive (e.g. including infrastructural development). Overall, avocado farming is capital intensive but it is only that the costs are spread out over an extended period of time (at least 5 years).
The market is vast from local to global so there are infinite potential clients. The great thing about avocados is that so many food retail businesses (from at least vendors) usually source avocados in bulk. This makes it easier for you to quickly sell your products in no time. Thanks to the internet and social media you can easily reach out to all these market segments.
Important Things To Consider
Avocados require average humid weather to grow optimally. This means they do not do well in arid and frosty conditions. Looking at the Zimbabwean context times when such weather conditions are common is around April or August. Thus starting production around those months is most advised. The best soil pH for their production is 5 to 7. After harvesting, storage temperatures must be between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius. Did you know that you can intercrop when doing avocado farming? Yeah, you can intercrop with preferably vegetable crops. This is worth considering because avocado trees take time to reach maturity. As they develop you can still enjoy income generation from other crops on the same piece of land.
Choose an appropriate site for avocado farming. It is advised that the best would be a site facing north and or northeast – for optimum sunlight exposure. Slope must be carefully considered to avoid the possibility of waterlogging.
This is a farming business that you can consider starting this year. It is a highly sought after fruit in the country plus it can also be exported. Just imagine, you can get as many as 500 avocados from just one tree at harvest. It is usually recommended that one hectare accommodate about 400 trees. That translates to 200 000 avocados realized from one hectare. Evidently, that is quite a lot of money.