NEW ZEALAND: Bright avocado season predicted

by Carmen Hall, New Zealand Herald


Avocado volumes have dropped 40 per cent this season. Carmen Hall asks NZ Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular about the fewer numbers and the future of the industry.


Why such a drop in volumes?

It’s a good question. Volumes of avocados being produced by New Zealand growers is down markedly from the last season which was our largest volume ever.


But demand is still very good, so with limited supply, returns for avocados from the New Zealand and export markets will be very good this year.


NZ Avocado has been doing a round of field days in the Bay of Plenty this week, with packers and exporters, and the general agreement is that the orchard gate returns for grower per tray will be ahead of last year, although the yields are down.


The 2014-15 season yielded $135 million FOB in sales with a record 7.1 million tray crop, 2013-14 saw $136 million in sales off 4.9 million trays.


The drop in volume has become almost expected in avocados in New Zealand, trees suffer from irregular bearing, and the Primary Growth Partnership programme with the Government is looking at the research required to help growers address this considerable challenge


What has the feedback been from growers in regard to the poor season?

We have met with and chatted to over 200 growers at four field days in the Bay this week, where growers have heard from their exporter that returns are predicted to be very good. The industry is feeling very positive. We have seen increased collaboration across exporters and New Zealand marketers, industry value has increased markedly and investment into the industry is very strong.


How many growers are in NZ – has there been an increase or decline of growers over the last three years?

There are 1350 avocado growers in New Zealand. The number of growers has not changed significantly in recent years but what has changed is that we see a significant increase in both scale and investment. We are seeing conversion of dairy land in the Far North and huge new plantings under way. Demand for new trees is so high that our two largest nurseries have a two-year wait list for avocado trees.


What are the three largest export markets?

Australia, Japan and Singapore.


What new initiatives has NZ Avocado adopted in the past 12 months to drive sales and awareness?


NZ Avocado joined the group of primary industries who were successful in gaining government investment through the Primary Growth Partnership.


This has allowed considerable investment in research, marketing and value chain analysis to support the increase in industry value.


NZ Avocado has continued its successful contestable fund scheme where we may fund up to 50 per cent of a promotions project managed by an exporter that aligns with the industry strategy. This initiative allows us to place our spend in a targeted area that will directly drive sales and support our exporters and growers.


What does the future hold moving forward and are there any other projects on the go?

Avocados grown in New Zealand offer an amazing nutritional experience, and tick all the boxes for safe, healthy food, an attribute demanded by the most discerning Asian customers. The future for New Zealand avocados looks bright, especially with the ever increasing global demand, new markets such as China and India that are yet to fully discover the avocado, and an industry of passionate growers and commercial entities who are excited about the opportunities available.


We are currently undertaking some innovative research on Japanese consumers using the lean social testing method which scans social media and blogs – any online conversations about avocados, to give us more in depth knowledge of what appeals to these consumers about avocados. Our research programme is focused and well structured and is yielding results which growers can start to incorporate into their thinking when deciding what management techniques to utilise on their orchards.


Source: New Zealand Herald

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