Hugh Moore may describe himself as an “average-size” avocado grower but the contribution he has made to the development of Avoco can only be seen as gigantic.

The avocado and kiwifruit industry stalwart stepped down from his role as chairman of the Avoco Grower Relationship Committee (AGRC) last October after serving eight years at the top. He handed the reins to John Schnackenberg but will continue to serve and have input into Avoco’s direction as a committee member.

Reflecting on his tenure, Hugh believes his greatest input came from ensuring Avoco operated under rules very similar to those he established as chairman for Team Avocado Trust.

“In combining Southern Produce as the licensed exporter for Team, and Primor Produce as exporter for the Primor group, we created what everyone now knows as Avoco,” he says.

“Having two major competitors come together like that is still very unique. Exporting is still carried out by the two exporters who own the licences and Avoco itself doesn’t employ any staff.”

Critical to Avoco’s formation was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address how each party worked together. “When we wrote that, we wanted to make sure we also had a grower representative body to work with Avoco. That’s where the MOU enshrined the rights of the AGRC.”

Efforts to reach a consensus around the rules of engagement for Avoco and the AGRC took about 18 months and a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

“The AGRC’s role is to monitor Avoco’s activity and the export pool prior to Free on Board (FOB),” says Hugh. “The agreement is our foundation document and requires that Avoco is led by the AGRC and its policies. We made sure that growers will always have major input into how the Avoco pool operates.”

Direction is evenly split between growers contracted to Team Avocado Trust and Primor Produce, with each body having five representatives around the AGRC table.

“Everything is in the planning and the detail but I’m very happy with how it has worked out.”

After eight seasons, Avoco accounts for more than 60% of industry exports and has created stability across the industry, with growers receiving more consistent Orchard Gate Returns.

Looking to the future, Hugh says Avoco and its growers must continue to prioritise fruit quality and tree health.

“The AGRC is doing that by committing revenue from the grower pool to go back into in-market monitoring. We last had that between 2000 and 2003, and Avoco’s Technical and Quality teams are promoting new systems and best practice right through the supply chain.”

He says New Zealand’s climate is one of the worst in the world for fruit rot and body rot, with phytophthora and biennial bearing continuing to challenge the industry.

“We want to grow volumes and more consistent production but that all comes back to good tree health and phytophthora control.”

He says scientific research is needed to better understand how to get the most out of New Zealand’s avocado trees.

“We are still a young industry compared to other parts of the world. We must get our heads around the right response to our unique climatic conditions and what’s right for New Zealand.”

In following in Hugh’s footsteps as the new AGRC chairman, John Schnackenberg acknowledges the significant contribution that Hugh has made to both Avoco and the wider industry.

“I also succeeded Hugh as Chair of the New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association a few years ago and someone with Hugh’s experience is always a hard act to follow.

“Not only has the Association recognised Hugh’s contribution to the avocado industry as a Life Member, but also Hugh has been awarded the Horticulture New Zealand pre-eminent award, its own Bledisloe Cup, for services to horticulture, which is well deserved.”

Whangarei grower Deon Cartwright was appointed as Vice-Chair on the AGRC.