Owen Hembry

Business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Australia targeted after bumper avocado crop

Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

The avocado industry is expecting a record harvest this season - up about 40 per cent on the previous high.

NZ Avocado Growers' Association chief executive Jen Scoular said the crop estimate this season was for about 5.9 million trays, compared to the previous largest crop of 4.2 million in 2007-08, and just over 3 million trays last year.

"Our trees only crop every two years naturally ... we have on-years and off-years, and on top of that we had a very positive, very good growing season leading up to flowering and pollination and fruit set nearly a year ago.

"That's led to this crop this year," Scoular said.

"I think growers are also being more proactive in terms of nutrition and orchard management on the basis of wanting to ensure that they do increase their yield on their trees."

The sector was worth about $65 million last year, including about $18-$20 million in the domestic market, and it was hoped it would rise to $85-$90 million this year.

Australia was expected to account for about 75-80 per cent of exports and New Zealand had about half the market from November to February, Scoular said.

The export season harvest ran from September until February, while the local market harvest starts a couple of months earlier.

The biggest challenge for the industry was the alternate bearing nature of orchards, which resulted in larger crops followed by smaller ones, she said.

"It's very difficult to do new market development when you're actually only able to supply that new market every second year, which has tended to be the case."

The association was spending $500,000 on a marketing campaign aimed at persuading Australians to add an avocado to their daily diet, which included about 30,000 samples since October, magazine advertising and the delivery of recipes by a mobile phone application.

Avocado recipes would be the feature on the Dinner Spinner mobile phone application through December and January.

Meanwhile, exports to Japan were expected to be just over 400,000 trays, compared to 99,436 in 2010-11, and the sector also shipped to a number of other Asian markets.

"We're top on the list for China and India to get phytosanitary allowance to export into those two countries ... they offer huge potential for us," Scoular said.

Avocado retail pricing in New Zealand was very reasonable for consumers with the larger harvest and supermarkets' desire to increase sales, she said.

In Australia retail pricing had held up reasonably well but the per tray returns had not been as good because of under-forecast production by growers there and the larger supply from New Zealand.

There were a number of exporters from New Zealand and some could achieve better returns than others depending on whether they had retail contracts in Australia or were exposed to potentially volatile wholesale market prices.

Overall, Scoular said, the record harvest was good news for the industry, which was expected to grow to 12-15 million trays within 10 years.

A new variety programme was looking for new root stocks best suited for New Zealand conditions.

- NZ Herald

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