Revised October, 2018.
Avocados (Persea americana) are a fruit and not a vegetable. They are thought to have originated in Mexico and Central and South America. Avocado trees were first planted in Florida in 1833 and then in California in 1856. According to NASS, California now accounts for the majority of U.S. avocado production, followed by Florida and Hawaii.
The value of U.S. avocado production measured $392 million in 2017. The United States produced 146,310 tons. The total number of U.S. acres in production stabilized at 56,580 (NASS, 2018).
Certain varieties, such as the Hass, have a tendency to bear well only in alternate years. After a season with a low yield, due to factors such as cold (which the avocado does not tolerate well), the trees tend to produce abundantly the next season. This heavy crop depletes stored carbohydrates, resulting in a reduced yield the following season, and thus the alternate bearing pattern becomes established.
Avocados have been marketed as a healthy dietary choice and as a good source of beneficial monounsaturated oil. A whole medium avocado contains approximately 15 percent of the FDA's recommended daily amount of saturated fat. In addition, avocados have 60 percent more potassium than bananas. They are also rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K and folate. Avocados are also a benefit to a diabetic diet. With diabetes increasing in the United States, avocados can offer a nutritious choice for those following a diabetic diet. (CAC)
U.S. consumption of avocados has followed a variable but generally increasing trend since 1970, increasing significantly from 2.23 pounds per capita in 2000 to a record 7.1 pounds per capita in 2016 (Statista, 2018).
The ripe fruit can be eaten and used in preparing salads, as a flavoring for ice creams, as a filling for sandwiches and in quick desserts. In Brazil, Vietnam and Taiwan, avocados are frequently used for milkshakes and occasionally added to ice cream. In the Philippines, Jamaica, and Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk and pureed avocado. In Central America, avocados are served mixed with white rice. In Chile, they are often used in hamburgers, hot dogs, and celery salads.
Other uses include pressing the fruit for avocado oil production and using the flesh to mix and apply adobe. Various parts of the avocado have medicinal benefits. When boiled, the leaves are thought to be a remedy for diarrhea. The pulp is used to hasten the formation of pus in wounds. Seeds can be smashed and used as fillers for toothaches.
The United States is a net importer of avocados from Mexico. Mexico supplied most of the avocados imported into the United States in 2017. In 2017 the United States imported $2.6 billion in fresh avocados and exported approximately $28,500 in fresh avocados (ERS 2018).
Commercial shipments of avocados from approved orchards in Mexico can now be distributed to all 50 states. As border restrictions were relaxed, provisions were put in place to curtail Mexican production, in an attempt to avoid saturation of the U.S. market. A rapid growth in demand soon prompted a dramatic increase in imports.
Avocado Sample Establishment and Production, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
California Avocado Commission 2016 (CAC).
Global Ag Trade System 2015, Foreign Ag Service, USDA.
New Phytosanitary Regulations Allow Higher Imports of Avocados. Amber Waves, ERS, USDA, 2006.
University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2014 Summary (July 2015), National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2015.
The Hass Avocado Promotion and Research Order: Offsetting Price Impacts from Imports with Advertising and Promotion, Working paper No. 04-006.
National Agricultural Statistic Service (NASS), 2018.
Economic Research Service (ERS), 2018.