Avocado industry confidence is on a high in Australia and a recent grower visit has highlighted the significant role that Avoco plays in its development.
The Avoco Grower Relations Committee visited Western Australia and Queensland to see first-hand large-scale commercial orchards as well as ripening and distribution facilities in Brisbane where most of Avoco’s fruit arrives after it is shipped from New Zealand.
Australians consume an average of 3.5kg of avocado each year and with demand continuing to rise, tens of millions of dollars have been invested by Australian businesses in new tree plantings and more recently, upgrading facilities to ripen, store and process the fruit.
Australia is New Zealand’s biggest market for avocados, with Avoco allocating about 80 per cent of its total crop to retail and wholesale supply each year. In 2016-17, it shipped more than 2.3 million trays to Australia and is now considered one of the four influential suppliers in this high-paying market.
The other three are all family-owned enterprises in Australia – all of whom grow and pack their own and other fruit before supplying the domestic market. North of Brisbane at Bundaberg, Simpson Farms will pick, pack and ship about one million trays this year, with most of the fruit sold fresh in Australia. They also have a processing operation that produces guacamole and other processed products using high-pressure technology. This fruit all goes into the food service sector.
Chris Bailey, an Avoco grower near Te Puke and a Bayfarms director, accompanied AGRC members on the trip and says the operations of the biggest growers in Australia is impressive.
“The biggest three growers/packers are producing a million trays each or close to it.”
To put that into perspective, individually, each of these growers will handle as much as Avoco’s 700 growers will produce for export this year.
It was clear during the week-long trip that Avoco had won respect from the other industry players who were all willing to work with the New Zealand company to grow the market and minimise overlaps in supply.
“Avoco is in its fifth season but the directors have been building relationships with these guys for many years with a view to maximising opportunities for everyone,” says Chris. “For growers, the benefits of all that work is starting to show in strong values and healthy Orchard Gate Returns.”
Katikati grower and AGRC vice-chairman John Schnackenberg says the collaborative working relationships in Australia had resulted in rapid but controlled retail growth which he believes is likely to continue for some time.
“We keep living in fear of the season when Western Australia volumes are high and so are ours. There will be a year when we will be tested under those conditions. But demand is still growing and on top of that, we have the foresight and capabilities to be developing markets in Asia to cope with that scenario.”
Australian growers were also working towards increasing their export opportunities, a situation that Avoco could capitalise on, says Chris.
“We currently don’t have enough fruit to develop the markets in Asia to their potential, so it could actually benefit New Zealand to have them there helping to develop an appetite for avocados among new consumers.
“Long-term, we have an opportunity to be part of a global growth strategy in Australia and further afield into Asia and beyond.”
This year’s low national crop volume means Avoco expects to export about 1.3 million trays, compared to 2.9 million trays in 2016-17. Under the Avanza brand, Avoco will ship about 292,000 trays outside Australia – about half of what it sent to various Asian markets last season.