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Grower efforts on orchard to be rewarded
6 March 2017

The curtain has come down on another avocado export season with AVOCO and its growers playing a leading role in the supply of avocados to Australia and beyond.

AVOCO, New Zealand’s largest avocado export group, handled about 2.9 million export trays in 2016-2017 – about 63 per cent of the industry’s total export crop. The bulk of all AVOCO shipments, at 83 per cent, was sent to Australia with the remainder packed under the AVANZA brand for health-conscious consumers across Asia.

AVOCO growers were offered incentive payments to hold fruit on their trees for longer than normal this season to meet market demands.

Final Orchard Gate Returns will be paid to growers in April after AVOCO completes its financial review of the season.

AVOCO director John Carroll says growers should feel confident their efforts in the orchard would be rewarded after a season that ended a week later than expected.

“We packed right into the third week of February this year as we had retail commitments to fulfil through to the beginning of March. Given the total volume and length of the season, this is a very acceptable outcome and one we believe will translate to extra dollars in the pockets of growers.”

Asian markets 

The 2016-2017 export season kicked off at the end of August in the Far North, where the warmer climate means fruit matures a few weeks earlier than in the Bay of Plenty and Whangarei. Some of the earliest fruit harvested was packed for the Asian markets where demand for in-season New Zealand avocados is traditonally high during a 10-week supply period. This season was no exception, with 192,000 trays shipped to Japan between October and December – a 60 per cent increase on last year.

About 70 per cent of growers’ crops were harvested by the end of December, enabling AVOCO to meet the strong retail demand for avocados coming out of Australia in January and February. AVOCO growers were offered incentive payments to hold fruit on their trees for longer to meet this high value period – an initiative John says AVOCO is likely to continue.

“Australia overestimated their domestic crop this year, which meant that for the first time in a while we shipped fruit beyond the eastern seaboard. At the same time, we experienced a surge in consumer demand due to Australia’s run of hot weather.

Market opportunity

“Our key retail customers rely on us to fill the gaps the Aussies can’t post-Christmas so we always need a steady supply of fruit to make the most of this market opportunity.”

While the five packhouses supporting AVOCO were able to fill their required bin numbers most weeks, fruit quality issues affecting the whole New Zealand industry created extra pressure at times during the later half of the season. Wind rub was a major cause of high reject rates for some growers while fungal rot affected a small volume of fruit post-harvest.

AVOCO’s technical team, led by Colin Partridge and Jerome Hardy, had investigated the fruit quality issues in an effort to understand their cause and determine what actions were most effective at controlling them.

AVOCO director Alistair Young says the findings will be shared with the industry as part of a commitment to provide quality information on best practice to all New Zealand growers.

“We’d encourage all growers to listen carefully to the quality discussions and recommendations that emerge.”

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