A large-scale Northland commercial avocado orchard, that was one of the first to be planted in New Zealand but which now requires redevelopment, has been placed on the market.
The 29ha property at Awanui, just north of Kaitaia, was originally established by Californian-based owners in 1990 when it was planted with Hass on Zutano and Duke 7 avocado varieties grown on about 20ha of plantation land.
The landholding is part of a multi-national avocado producing empire which had fruit sourced from New Zealand, the USA, Peru and Chile.
Crop from the orchard was exported to North America during 1990s and into the 2000s before the absentee North American owner changed its production focus to be more New Zealand-centric.
Now the plantation and supporting infrastructure at 419 Paparore Rd are being marketed through Vinni Bhula of Bayleys Whangarei who, with colleague Steven McNally of Bayleys Kerikeri, is selling the freehold property with plant and buildings by tenders closing at 2pm on Thursday June 21.
Bhula says the orchard has come to the end of its productive lifecycle in its current format and is now due for redevelopment – mirroring what has happened to other established avocado orchards in the area dating back to the early 1990s.
The orchard cropped 101,939kgs of avocado fruit in the 2015/2016 season. "When operating at full capacity, avocados are harvested, graded and packed onsite with fruit being sold on domestic and international markets for retail.
"Although the production is not big, some blocks could be kept for cash flow purposes while redevelopment takes place on the balance of the property."
Bhula says redevelopment consists of removing the old trees, breaking up the soil substructure, adding fertiliser where needed, installing drainage, and replanting new root stock at a higher density with new avocado clone varieties which become more productive at a younger age.
"New stock for this process is highly sought-after – with up to a three-year waiting list for avocado trees from approved nurseries," he says.
"Under the replanting option and securing new root stock relatively swiftly, the Awanui orchard has the potential to be re-established to produce a new crop within three years, and ultimately deliver a crop of between 45,000 – 50,000 trays of avocados within eight years.
"Alternatively, the land could be converted into berry fruit production as the property is segregated into 30 blocks surrounded by established pinus radiata shelter belts for protection from adverse weather."
A comprehensive catalogue of horticultural infrastructure buildings comes with the property and includes:
• a two-bedroom owner/managers' home,
• a decommissioned refrigerated cool store and associated chilling plant,
• a 260sq m galvanised iron packing shed,
• about 160sq m of storage and workshop sheds,
• a concrete-floored greenhouse propagation facility,
• water bore and pumps, and;
• a stand-alone agri' chemicals storage shed.
Irrigation on the property comes from a consented 79m deep six-inch bore with consent to draw up to 80,000 cubic metres of water annually. Water is circulated across the crop via a fixed sprinkler system.
"The Far North has been well-recognised for its early season avocado production," Bhula says. This is due to its favourable warm climate with an average rainfall of 1080mm annually and an average annual temperature of 16.2C combined with sandy and peaty soil types. This environment has been the catalyst for a surge in the growth of new medium to large-scale avocado orchard developments over the past decade.
Bhula says the Paparore Rd operation could complement an existing large avocado-growing operation. "This could exercise economies of scale by utilising other more modern packhouse facilities and converting the packing shed on-site into a short-term, crop-holding amenity."
Machinery and chattels for sustaining the horticulture business - including two motorised hydra ladders, three tractors, a sprayer, and commercial-grade wood chipper – are included in the land, plant and buildings package for sale.
New Zealand has around 1400 commercial avocado growers with most production taking place north of the Bay of Plenty and delivering crops year-round, with the biggest volumes harvested during the summer months. Government statistics show avocados are the third largest fresh fruit export from New Zealand.