The avocado supply chain

Best practices in each step of the fresh chain have a great influence on the postharvest quality and shelf-life of avocado. By applying appropriate harvest processes and chain conditions, quality can be guaranteed and shelf life can be extended. Failure to follow these processes may result in a high degree of food loss or deterioration of the product to a lower quality class. Every step in the chain is important for success later in the chain.

Illustration of avocado by Daria Chekman/

Avocado chain

Avocados are tropical fruits. The principal countries producing avocado are Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenia, Chile and Israel. The healthy nature and multiple uses of avocados result in a strong global consumer demand for avocados. They are harvested when mature, but not ripe. Ideally, the packhouse is just a short distance from the orchards. This minimizes the risk on damage during transport and facilitates early cooling in the packhouse. Soon after arrival at the packhouse, unloading takes place and processes such as grading and packing start. After pre-cooling, a proper loading in refrigerated trucks or reefers is important to maintain good temperature conditions during transport. A closed cold chain, so without intermittent warming, is important to control the ripening process and prevent condensation. Until the retail stage, avocadoes should be mature, but not necessarily ripe yet. Some importers or service providers have packhouses with ripening facilities. These are important for the concept of ready-to-eat avocados and supply to supermarkets.

Steps in the avocado chain

  1. Harvest of an avocado. Photo by anarociogf/


    The postharvest chain starts with the harvest of the avocados. For distant markets, they must be harvested relatively unripe, but also in a stage which will ensure proper completion of the ripening process. Careful picking at the right maturity is crucial for quality later in the chain. Transport to the packhouse should follow soon after harvest. It is essential that fruit, especially for overseas shipment, is cooled as soon as possible.
  2. Temperature management of avocado. Photo by New Africa/

    Temperature management

    Quickly lowering the fruit temperature is of great importance. It reduces (too fast) ripening, minimizes fruit water loss and slows decay. However, avocados are susceptible to chilling injury that would lead to visual damages and flavour loss. Therefore they should not be stored colder than 5 degree product temperature for main varieties. Storage in the packhouse and transport from the packhouse to final destination must be properly temperature-controlled.
  3. Packing avocados. Photo by BearFotos/


    In general, it should be avoided to do more handling than strictly necessary, as this increases the risk of mechanical damage. However, packhouse activities consist of many necessary and important steps, such as sorting/grading. Failure to sort and discard immature, overripe, undersized, misshapen, blemished, or otherwise damaged produce creates problems in subsequent marketing. Grading helps the handlers to categorise the avocados according to common parameters.
  4. Reefer container. Photo by WFBR


    Pre-cooling of avocados is necessary before they enter the refrigerated truck or reefer. When avocados are harvested at the recommended harvest stage for export and stored as recommended (usually 5-7 °C), a transport time of up to 3 to 4 weeks by reefer is possible. Temperature monitoring during transport must take place. Controlled Atmosphere conditions are commonly used at reefer containers transporting fruit to distant markets. The volumes of avocados which are transported by air are small
  5. Avocados in export baskets. Photo by Juan Carlos Riano/


    Each export market has its own requirements and quality standards. Prior exporting to a new market, rules and standards should be extensively studied. Pre-harvest treatments, pest management and MRL, size and grading, packing rate and labelling, transport settings should comply with the minimum requirements of the import country and customer.
  6. Ripe avocados in the supermarket. Photo by WFBR

    Importers and retail

    Some importers and service providers have ripening facilities in which with temperature and sometimes ethylene gas ripening is stimulated. These are important for the ready-to-eat avocados and supply to supermarkets. Avocados can be displayed at ambient temperature, but remember that ripening continues. The fruit condition in the shop must be sufficient to ultimately arrive at the consumer's home in satisfactory condition.
"It is of utmost importance to have a correct handling by all supply chain actors from the moment of harvest until purchase by the end customer."
Hans de Wild, Consultant Postharvest Technology

Did you know?

  1. Chilling injury becomes only visible after a few days

    Chilling injury is a consequence of too cold temperatures, but is usually already initiated before delivery in the store.