Buy local: avocado growers

By Susan Edmunds

Graeme Laurence of Fressure Foods. Photo / Doug Sherring
Graeme Laurence of Fressure Foods. Photo / Doug Sherring

New Zealand's avocado growers would be turning over an extra $1 million a year if fast-food outlets were not importing foreign avocados.

And change could happen, with both Subway and Hell Pizza interested in learning about technology that extends the shelf life of Kiwi avocado.

Graeme Laurence, of Fressure Foods, an avocado products producer in Pukekohe, estimates 200 tonnes of frozen, processed avocado pulp are brought into the country from Mexico and Peru every year, yet NZ growers struggle to find outlets for their produce. "A lot [of NZ avocado] has to be exported," Laurence says.

Avocado Industry Council chief executive Jen Scoular says 65 per cent of NZ's avocado crop of 33,000 tonnes is exported. "We certainly would be able to supply that [imported] quantity."

Foreign avocado is processed in a way that allows it to have a longer shelf life than traditional NZ versions - although Fressure Foods has developed a high-pressure processing system that extends the shelf life of its products.

It is now exporting guacamole to Australia.

A McDonald's spokeswoman confirms the company is importing avocado, despite high-profile advertising campaigns promoting its use of local meat and produce. "McDonald's NZ uses a relatively small volume of avocado for our BLAT breakfast bagel. It uses approximately 80 5.4kg cases per month across our 160 restaurants nationwide," the spokeswoman says.

"This is currently the only item on our menu that contains avocado.

"Our avocado comes from an existing supplier, Heinz Watties. Avocado is one of the few items on the McDonald's menu that is sourced offshore. Most of McDonald's NZ's suppliers are based locally."

A Subway spokeswoman says the chain imports avocado, too, but is reviewing that to see whether NZ options are viable alternatives.

In the past, NZ producers had been unable to provide the volumes required.

"Now they have come up with the goods, we are reviewing that."

Callum Davies, of Hell Pizza, says the chain also bought foreign avocado pulp from Watties. When Hell was looking for an avocado supplier, it encountered the same problem as Subway. If that situation has changed, Hell will reconsider its supplier, he says.

Scoular says volume is not an issue but it will come down to a value equation.

"What quality product is being imported and at what price?"

But Laurence says the decision to import need not be a financial one. Processed NZ product is available at a "competitive" price.

Scoular says NZ's consumption of avocados is relatively modest by international standards.

In the past season a lot of avocados had been produced and that had meant lower prices for growers. Efforts are being made to improve the percentage of growers' crops that are up to export standard but, at present, local shops will be landed with an abundance of avocado during the export season.

Scoular says Fressure Foods' processing capability will help NZ growers, because high-value products can be made from process-grade fruit.

"Fressure Foods' application of UHP technology supports industry goals to maximise the value returned to NZ avocado growers. As the industry body we promote consumption of locally grown avocados."

- Herald on Sunday

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