Shipments of New Zealand avocados to South Korea have reached an industry high with 209,000 trays planned for export this season, says avocado exporter AVOCO.

Worth about $6 million to the total industry, the 2016 Korean exports are three times the volume exported last year.

The greater volume reflects the industry's larger national crop in 2016-17. However, Carwyn Williams, Southeast Asian market manager for AVOCO's AVANZA brand, says the growth reflects the efforts put in to promote New Zealand avocados in Asia.

New Zealand exporters are now also beginning to benefit from the Free Trade Agreement ratified with Korea in September last year, which saw the 30 per cent tariff on New Zealand avocados drop to 24 per cent in January 2016. The tariff drops annually and will be eliminated in 2024.

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After a short crop of 2.5 million trays last season, the New Zealand industry is expecting to export a total of about 5.1 million trays in 2016-17, exceeding the previous record of 4.5 million trays two years ago.

AVOCO is expected to handle the bulk of the crop and this season will export about 3.1 million trays, with 83 per cent destined for Australia, traditionally the biggest market for New Zealand fruit. The remaining 17 per cent will be sent to various Asian markets, including Japan, Thailand, Singapore, India and Korea.

AVANZA says it will handle 85 per cent of New Zealand exports to Korea this season, shipping more than 7000 trays a week over a 25-week supply window. Korean imports of avocados between January and August this year from all origins, including Mexico and the US, were 347,000 trays - an 83 per cent increase on avocado imports during the same eight month period in 2015.

AVANZA market manager Martin Napper said it was expected that New Zealand avocados would make up about half of all avocado imports this year to Korea.

"Korea has been a rapidly growing market for avocados," he said. "Two years ago, New Zealand shipped close to 72,000 trays to Korea - any more and the market could tip over very quickly. But this year, we've received unprecedented interest. Avocados have just hit a nerve."

Korea, unlike other Asian markets, prefers the large size fruit typically produced in New Zealand.

AVANZA has also collaborated in the market with the Avocado Industry Council, which has helped to promote New Zealand avocados on a website designed specifically for a Korean audience.

The Korean website offers recipe ideas and fruit-handling information and the council has also engaged Korean celebrity chef Hong Shin Ae to front avocado tasting events and meal demonstrations. The AIC has also undertaken social media research to better understand the buyer behaviours of consumers throughout Asia.

AVOCO

-Formed by New Zealand's two biggest avocado exporters, Southern Produce and Primor Produce.