Food Security

Latin America has become a leading exporter of these 2 hugely popular products

Latin America is fast becoming one of the world’s leading exporters of roses.

Latin America is fast becoming one of the world’s leading exporters of roses. Image: Pexels/Samer Daboul

Mario Canales
Digital Trade Specialist, World Economic Forum
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  • Latin America now accounts for 75% of the global production of avocados, while rose exports from Ecuador and Colombia make up 34% of the global total.
  • The United States is the leading importer of roses and avocados from the region, data shows.
  • While the boom in agricultural exports is a positive for Latin American economies, there are concerns about the environmental impacts of shipping products between continents.

Perhaps it’s a post-pandemic thing: many of us felt the need for greater human connection following COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as healthier diets.

Step forward roses and avocados. We’re buying roses in increasing numbers as a way to show loved ones how much we care. While avocados have become a staple of more health-conscious diets.

Growers in Latin America have seized on this growth in demand and trade data shows the region now leads the world in the export of the two products.

Latin American nations are the world’s biggest exporters of avocados.
Latin American nations are the world’s biggest exporters of avocados. Image: Latinometrics/FAO

The advance of avocados in Latin America

The modern avocado trade in Latin America tells a story of agricultural development that spans millennia. Archaeological evidence suggests that avocados were being consumed in Mexico as far back as 10,000 years ago.

Latin America now accounts for 75% of global production of avocados, according to data from Agraria.pe.

As the chart above illustrates, data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows production in Mexico more than doubled from 1.1 million tonnes in 2010 to 2.4 million tonnes in 2020.

Colombia has also increased production dramatically in recent years. In 2015, Colombia produced 309,852 tonnes of avocado. By 2020, production had increased to 876,754 tonnes, making it Latin America’s second-largest supplier. Colombia is now on track to overtake the continents of Africa and Asia as a leading global exporter of avocados.

The main demand for Latin America’s avocado crop comes from the United States. In 2021, an estimated 46% of revenue came from the US. Much of the market is driven by holidays and major events. The weekend of the NFL Super Bowl final is estimated to account for 20% of annual avocado sales in the US.

From Latam with love

Latin America is fast becoming one of the world’s leading exporters of roses. The sweeping flower fields of the Netherlands still supply the biggest share of the world market, but Latin American countries are taking a bigger share of a global market worth $2.86 billion in 2020.

Some Latin American countries are fast becoming world’s leading exporters of roses.
Some Latin American countries are fast becoming world’s leading exporters of roses. Image: Latinometrics/OEC

According to data from the Observatory for Economic Complexity (OEC), Ecuador is now the world’s second-biggest exporter of roses, shipping $625 million worth of the blooms in 2020. Colombia is the fourth-largest exporter, with rose sales topping $350 million in 2020.

When taken together, the value of rose exports from Ecuador and Colombia hit $975 million in 2020, making up 34% of annual rose exports.

The combined exports of Latin American countries, Ecuador and Colombia, equal 34% of the global rose market.
The combined exports of Latin American countries, Ecuador and Colombia, equal 34% of the global rose market. Image: OEC.

Among the key markets for Latin American rose exports are the United States and Europe. The annual celebration of love that is Valentine’s Day creates a huge demand for roses. Demand for Colombian flowers in the US increased by 16.1% between 2020 and 2021, with a value of $1.2 billion. Exports to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom increased by 59.1% and 28.8% respectively in the same period, according to regional business analysts.

Creating sustainable agriculture systems

While the boom in agricultural exports is a positive for Latin American economies, there are concerns about the environmental impacts of shipping food and other products between continents.

The Food Action Alliance (FAA) is a multi-stakeholder platform for the development of sustainable food systems. Hosted by the World Economic Forum, the FAA aims to ensure economic and social inclusion with a focus on women and youth, while providing healthy, nutritious, and safe foods in a way that safeguards our planet, conserves natural resources and builds resilience against future shocks.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Food SecurityAgriculture, Food and Beverage
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