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Avocado Production in the Philippines - Rachel C. Sotto*

* University Researcher and Project Leader, Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines Los Banos, College, Laguna, Philippines.

At the end of the nineteenth century, several plant species were introduced into the Philippines. These came from different parts of the world and included fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants. Some proved to be valuable and easily adapted to the Philippine conditions while others were less promising and did not gain a wide acceptance among the populace. One of the introductions which proved to be suitable to the Philippine soil and climatic conditions was the avocado.

Known as 'aguacate' in Spanish and 'alligator pear', 'Palta pear', 'Midshipman’s butter' and 'avocado' in English, it is called as 'abokado' in the Philippine vernacular. It was introduced into the Philippines in 1890 by the Spaniards through seeds coming from Mexico. However, it was only from 1902 to 1907 that avocado was introduced successfully into the Philippines by the Americans. Through the Bureau of Agriculture (now the Bureau of Plant Industry which is under the Department of Agriculture), planting materials were received from Hawaii, Costa Rica and the United States. In 1913, the Bureau of Agriculture, together with the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, started the countrywide spreading of avocado trees. Now, avocados are found growing all over the country, most of which are cultivated in backyards.


Crop statistics, compiled by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics of the Department of Agriculture showed that in 1990-1997 the Philippines had a total area of 4,753 hectares planted with avocado (Table 1). Average annual production was estimated at 45,884 tonnes. Leading producing regions of the country are the Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas, and Southern Tagalog, while the leading producing provinces are Bohol, located in Central Visayas, and Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Cagayan which are located in the Cagayan Valley. In terms of area planted with avocado, Bicol is the leading region, followed by Cagayan Valley and Southern Luzon. Most regions of the country, however, have low productivity since avocado is grown mostly as a backyard tree or as a component of a mixed orchard with little or no care at all.

In the Philippines, two distinct types of avocado exist, namely the green-fruited and the purple-fruited types. In other countries and notably in the USA, the green-fruited varieties are preferred. In the Philippines, however, the purple-fruited varieties are preferred by the consumers.

Table 1. Area Planted with Avocado, Number of Bearing Trees, Production and Yield by Region (mean of 1990-1997 figures)



Number of
bearing trees
















Cagayan Valley






Central Luzon






Southern Tagalog












Western Visayas






Central Visayas






Eastern Visayas






Western Mindanao






Northern Mindanao






Southern Mindanao






Central Mindanao
























Source: Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Department of Agriculture (1998).
The avocado varieties in the country have been developed mainly through introduction and selection. Many varieties have been introduced since 1903 and most of them have been lost. Today, only a few varieties exist. Most of them are selections from local seedling trees, and they are confined to only a few nurseries and backyards. These are:
Cardinal: The fruit bottlenecked with an average weight of 400 grams. The skin is reddish-purple and thick (1.3 mm). The seed is small (40 g) and is loose to tight in the cavity. The flesh is yellow, moderately fibrous and constitutes 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

Calma: The fruit ovoid and weighing 600 grams. The skin is reddish-purple and intermediate in thickness (1.0 mm). The seed is small (80 g) and is loose in the cavity. The flesh is yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

Uno: The fruit ovoid and weighing 400 grams. The skin is purple and is rather thick (2.0 mm). The seed is small (80 g) and is loose to tight in the cavity. The flesh is creamy yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

240: The fruit ovoid and weighing 600 grams. The skin is green and thin (1.26 mm). The seed is intermediate in size (90 g) and is rather loose in the cavity. The flesh is creamy yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

227: The fruit is bottlenecked and weighing 500 grams. The skin is purple and thick (1.3 mm). The seed is small (50 g) and is loose in the cavity. The flesh is dark yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

Recently, three new varieties were approved by the National Seed Industry Council. However, these have not yet been released to the private nurseries. These new varieties are:
Parker: The fruit ovoid and having an average weight of 600 grams. The skin is purple and thick (1.1 mm). The seed is small in size (70 g) and is tight in the cavity. The flesh is creamy yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

RCF Purple: The fruit ovoid and weighing 400 grams. The skin is reddish-purple and thick (1.2 mm). The seed is small (40 g) and is loose in the cavity. The flesh is creamy yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

Cepillo Green: The fruit pyriform and weighing 700 grams. The skin is green and intermediate in thickness (0.9 mm). The seed is intermediate in size (90 g). The flesh is dark yellow and is 80 per cent of the whole fruit by weight.

No varieties have so far been identified for rootstock use. Available seeds coming from the season’s produce are usually sown and the resulting seedlings are used as rootstocks.


Since the avocado is not considered a major fruit in the country and is planted mostly in backyards, only a limited amount of planting material is being produced in a few government institutions and private nurseries. Planting materials may come in the form of grafted plants or seedlings for rootstock use. Government agencies such as the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture and the University of the Philippines Los Baños, particularly the National Seed Foundation and the Department of Horticulture, produce a few hundred grafted plants of locally available varieties. Small private nurseries which also sell sexually propagated avocado plants are a good source of seedling rootstocks for propagation. Seedlings grown in the nurseries are heterogeneous - each seedling different from another, even though the seeds may have come from one variety or only from one parent tree.

The commonly used and preferred method for large-scale propagation is grafting. This method is less labour-requiring, faster and economical in the use of scion materials. In the case of cleft-grafting, 6-12 months old seedlings are used as rootstocks. Budwood sticks are obtained from the season’s mature growth with well-developed terminal buds. New shoots are formed within three to four weeks.

Other methods of propagation which are sometimes employed are inarching and shield-budding. Inarching is a slow and laborious process although it can be used during the rainy season when grafting and budding cannot be done successfully. Shield-budding on the other hand is a fast method. However, it requires skill.


For orchard planting in flat to gently rolling terrain, the land is cleared, ploughed deeply to break the hard subsurface soil layer and harrowed two or three times to achieve the desired soil tilth and to level the field. For rolling land and steep slopes, ploughing and harrowing are not practised. Instead, hand forking and hoeing are carried out so as to minimize erosion. Stakes are then set, following the desired distance of planting. Depending upon the variety, the plants are set at 8-10 m apart to give a population of 100-156 trees per hectare. Holes which are deep and wide enough to accommodate the root system of the planting material are then dug at the places occupied by the stakes.

Before planting, the leaves of the planting materials are pruned in half to reduce transpiration. After removal from the container, the plants are set in the prepared holes. The holes are then filled up with top soil which is packed firmly around the stem. The plants are then watered immediately after planting.

Planting usually takes place at the onset of the rainy season to minimize the need for frequent watering of the newly set plants in the field. However, in areas where there is a uniform distribution of rainfall or where irrigation water is readily available, planting takes place at any time of the year.


Training and pruning of plants

Avocado requires very little pruning once the tree has been established. When the trees are still young, especially during the first few years, the plants are trained to a desirable shape by allowing three well-spaced branches to develop and eliminating the rest. Once the trees have attained the desired form, pruning is confined to the removal of diseased, infested and interlacing branches and watersprouts.

Fertilizer application

Many avocado trees in the Philippines are grown without the benefit of fertilizer. This may be the reason why fruit yield and quality tend to decline after fruiting for several years.

Under the existing orchard soil conditions in the country, young and nonbearing avocado trees require only nitrogenous fertilizer. Farmers apply 100-200 grams of ammonium sulphate or about 50-100 grams urea/tree, twice a year. As the trees bear fruit, 500 grams of complete fertilizer are applied, twice a year. For full-bearing trees, two kilograms of complete fertilizer are applied per year. A supplemental application of organic fertilizers, e.g. animal and poultry manure, and compost, is also given.

The fertilizer is applied at the onset and towards the end of the rainy season. It is usually applied in a ring around the trunk of the tree or in shallow holes dug beneath the tree canopy.

Weeding and mulching

Mulching of avocado trees is not practised in the Philippines. Weeding, on the other hand, is confined only to the removal of weeds within a one-metre radius from the trunk especially when the trees are still young; it is usually carried out manually with the use of a scythe or mechanically with the use of a grasscutter.


The practise of irrigating avocado trees in the country is uncommon. The plants are irrigated only when they are newly planted in the field and at certain times of the year when the dry season extends from four to five months. Otherwise, the trees are rainfed. Irrigation is effected manually.

Control of pests and diseases

The insect pests attacking the avocado, in order of their importance, are the following:

Borers: The borers, Niphonoclea albata and Niphonoclea capitoe, attack the trunk, pith and twigs by boring their way and cutting off the plant’s tissues. Lime wash and lime sulphur are used as repellents. In some instances, the tree is sprayed with insecticide.

Scale Insects and Mealy Bugs: The scale insect, Asphidiutus destructor, and the mealy bugs suck the sap from the leaves, shoots and fruits, causing premature falling of the fruits. Oil emulsion spray is used in controlling these insects.

Oriental Fruit Fly: The Oriental fruit fly, Dacus dorsalis, attacks the mature fruits which are about to ripen. They are controlled by spraying with malathion.

The major diseases which affect the avocado are:
Root rot: This is caused by the fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi. Symptoms include yellowing of leaves, sparse foliage, wilting of leaves and dieback of shoots. Prevention of conditions conducive to the growth of the fungus by providing adequate drainage or avoiding planting in waterlogged areas seems to be the best method at present to control the disease.

Anthracnose: This is caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides and affects the leaves, twigs and fruits. It is controlled by spraying with Bordeaux mixture or copper sulphate.

A minor disease of the avocado is the scab which is caused by Sphaceloma perseae. It attacks the fruit and is controlled by spraying with Bordeaux mixture.


Avocado fruits are harvested when they are fully mature. Indications of maturity are the appearance of reddish-purple streaks on the stem-end of purple-fruited varieties and a change in colour from green to light green on green-fruited varieties. In the case of loose-seeded varieties, an indication of fruit maturity is the production of a hollow sound when the fruit is tapped with the fingers.

Avocado fruits on the same tree do not mature at the same time, so selective harvesting is usually practised. This requires going over the tree several times until all the fruits are harvested. Harvesting is accomplished manually by climbing the tree or by using a ladder. Fruits which cannot be reached by hand are harvested with the use of a long bamboo pole fitted at one end with a wire hook and an attached net to catch the fruits. The fruits are then placed in sacks or in rattan or bamboo baskets lined with banana leaves, for transport to the market.

From the national figures on area and production for the years 1990-1997, a mean annual yield of 9.6 t/ha with 84 kg/tree was estimated. This is quite an improvement from the figures recorded 15 years earlier, when mean yield was only 4.9 t/ha with 50 kg/tree. Though the total area planted and the number of bearing trees recorded for both periods did not change drastically, the yield almost doubled. This was due to the increased yield reported for the Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas and ARMM. The reason for this could only be surmised. This may be due to improved production practices followed by the farmers in these regions. Otherwise, the yield in the other regions did not change much.

In terms of quality, much is to be desired. Most of the avocado fruits sold in the market are of poor quality. This is due to poor crop management employed by the farmers plus the fact that most of the trees grown come from seeds of unknown origin. Another reason for the low quality of the fruits is the poor accessibility of the production areas of the avocado. In many instances, the farm is situated in areas accessible only by trails and paths making transport of the produce difficult and time-consuming. With proper cultivars and improved production and transport facilities, the yield and quality of avocado are projected to improve substantially.


In the Philippines, the marketing of avocado involves two very simple systems. In the first system, the farmers bring their harvest to the market together with other farm produce i.e. banana, root crops, chicken, and sell these directly to the consumers. In this way they obtain a higher price for the avocado fruits. In the second system, a middleman, locally called 'comprador', buys all the avocado fruits from the farmers at a lower price and sells them in the market at a higher price. The middleman generally dictates the farm-gate price since he bears the transportation cost. Under the present nature of small-scale and backyard avocado production, where the volume of production is small, the farmer prefers to sell his produce to the middleman. Avocado production is for the local market. There is no export of avocados at present.


Avocado has a bright potential for development in the country and there are several reasons for this.

Firstly, the avocado can be found growing all over the country. This is due to the introduction of several varieties belonging to the three different avocado races, giving the crop a wide range of soil and climatic adaptability. At present, most of the trees are grown from seeds, thus a wide variation in plant and fruit characters exists which gives a good opportunity for selection of superior trees.

Secondly, the avocado has a long fruiting season. In the Philippines, the peak of the fruiting season is from May to September, although some trees in certain localities fruit from January to March. Therefore, a survey of existing plantings and backyard trees should be conducted in order to determine their potential range in flowering and fruiting so as to have an extended production season. Also, by planting varieties which bear fruits at different times of the year, it may be possible to have a year-round supply of avocado fruits.

Thirdly, the avocado is one of the most nutritious and versatile fruits in the world. It is the ideal fruit for the diabetic and anaemic people. It can be eaten alone, as a dessert fruit, as ice-cream flavouring, as salad fruit, as sandwich filling, as a dip or as a soup ingredient. The leaves and the seeds have several medicinal uses. If Filippinos are properly educated on the varied uses of the avocado and if they could acquire the taste for the fruit, then the avocado could be very promising for the domestic market. In addition, export markets for the fruit could be developed.

Lastly, the avocado can be propagated vegetatively with ease, and this is a plus factor in its development. In the country, grafting and shield-budding are used for large-scale propagation although it can also be propagated by marcotting and inarching.


In the Philippines, the avocado has not yet attained the popularity enjoyed by other fruits like mango, banana and pineapple. This is due to the following limiting factors and constraints:

Social constraints

In the Philippines, the avocado is mainly used as a dessert fruit. It is often eaten with milk and sugar but never as a component of a vegetable salad as in other countries. This is because the avocado lacks the sweet or subacid flavour present in mango, banana and pineapple to which the Filipino palate has been accustomed. Furthermore, Filippinos are not aware of the varied uses and excellent nutritional value of the fruit. Therefore, advertisements and a strong promotional campaign on the different uses of the avocado should be carried out in order to change the perception and eating habits of Filippinos regarding the avocado.

Supply of certified planting materials

At present, in the Philippines there are three varieties of avocado (Parker, RCF Purple and Cepillo Green) approved by the National Seed Industry Council, a government body with the task to approve crop varieties for registration. In addition, one introduced variety (Cardinal) and five outstanding local varieties (Calma, Uno, 240, 226 and Lopena), which have been selected from seedling trees, are recommended for cultivation. However, these varieties have not been expanded widely. A major limiting factor to avocado production development in the country is the lack of certified planting material of these good varieties. Reputable fruit nurseries are scarce. Therefore, accreditation of reliable private nursery operators all over the country is needed, so as to increase the availability of high quality planting material at affordable prices.

Lack of varieties with special attributes other than eating quality

The selection of the currently available varieties was based solely on the fruit’s eating quality. Varieties with a high oil content are needed for the processing and cosmetic industries. Varieties which are resistant to root rot still have to be identified. Varieties with a long shelf-life still have to be found. Without these varieties, avocado production in the country cannot be developed to a great extent.

Lack of funds for avocado research and development

Despite its income-generating potential, the government has not given to avocado a priority status for research and development. At present, the government has given only six fruit commodities top priority for research and development. These are banana, mango, papaya, pineapple, citrus and durian. The avocado was not even included in the list of minor fruits.

Many production problems of the avocado still need to be investigated. These include aspects of varietal improvement, pests and diseases, nutrition and rootstock-scion relations. Post-harvest handling and processing of the avocado into various products have to be explored. To venture into avocado research, financial assistance from both government and private sectors is direly needed.

Inadequacy of infrastructure facilities

These are insufficient in most rural areas where avocado trees are grown. Many towns are lacking transportation facilities, farm-to-market roads and communications systems. Invariably, the existing road networks are in poor condition. In addition, not enough transportation facilities are available to bring the farm produce to the market.

Lack of adequately trained specialists and extension workers on avocado production

Most of the problems encountered by farmers in the field could be attributed to poor and ineffective transfer of production technologies. There is a need for a more effective extension service. At present, most of the field technicians cannot provide technical assistance to avocado growers since they are assigned to staple crops such as rice and corn. As a result, the level of technical knowledge of the farmers on avocado production is based solely on their own experience.


From 1981 up to the present, only five studies have been carried out by state universities and the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture (Table 2).

Table 2. Research Projects/Studies on Avocado from 1981-1999

Title of Project/Study

Funding/Implementing Agency


Avocado Rootstocks Resistant to Phytophthora Root Rot in Cell Cultures

USAID-Israel Cooperative Development Research Program/ The Volcani Center, Israel; University of the Philippines Los Baños


Germplasm Collection, Maintenance and Evaluation of Lanzones and Avocado

University of Southern Mindanao


Breeding Selected Crops (Avocado, Citrus, Passion fruit, Rambutan)

University of the Philippines Los Baños


Population Density Study on Avocado

Bureau of Plant Industry - Davao National Crop Research and Development Center


Screening and Development of Avocado Cultivars for Domestic and Foreign Markets

University of the Philippines Los Baños


The very low number of research studies conducted within a span of 18 years amply demonstrates the very low priority accorded to avocado research and development. As of the moment, the government does not have any plans for avocado production development. If ever an interest on any researchable area of avocado production arises then this will have to be taken up at the initiative and at the expense of the core budget of the interested research institution. For the next five years, no funds for avocado research and development have been earmarked by the government since only banana, mango, papaya, pineapple, citrus and durian from the major fruits and lanzones, and rambutan and mangosteen from the minor fruits have been identified as the priority fruits for research and development.


Despite the long list of limitations and constraints to avocado production development, the future of the avocado in the country looks to be bright. A plus factor is the presence of more than half a million bearing trees in the country from which outstanding selections could be made. With appropriate promotion of the avocado as one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, with a wide variety of uses, the market for the avocado would expand. In the future, improved production technology coupled with improved post-harvest and processing technology would facilitate market development of this crop. Though orchards planted with grafted trees of the best varieties are still rare in this country, it cannot be doubted that many orchards will be established in the future, if not for the export trade, at least for the production of high-quality fruit for local consumption.


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