Commitment to a long-term strategy was the theme of Just Avocados’ recent grower meeting held in Te Puna to review the 2019-2020 season and preview plans for 2020-2021.
Olympic silver medal winning New Zealand slalom canoeist Luuka Jones joined the meeting as a guest speaker, sharing her own roadmap and lessons on achieving goals.
“Something that we do, which Andrew [Darling] has talked about with you tonight, is review and debrief.
“My coach and I review every training block and talk about what is working and what we need to add to the next training block; we have a constant process of learning and refining,” said Luuka.
Just Avocados has supported Luuka for the last six years, initially on her ‘Road to Rio’ and with continued association in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Andrew Darling, managing director for Darling Group and Just Avocados, says that what Luuka is doing resonates with the steps Just Avocados has taken to chart its course.
“Twelve months ago, we reviewed what we are trying to achieve for our growers and how are we going to set ourselves apart. Out of that came our focus on long-term profitability and business sustainability.”
Andrew says that in New Zealand, growing avocados is a challenge – and for growers to have a business in the future, improvements to orchard management need to be made.
“We grow in a temperate climate and in some cases in marginal areas. As a business, we looked at all aspects of that and focussed on what we could do better, how we could support ourselves as growers and how we could support you as growers.”
Andrew shared that the key drivers underpinning Just Avocados’ strategy are market strategy, pool structure, harvest timing, return crop, and financial sustainability.
“Our pool structure was one of the biggest changes. We had a season-long pool, which is a common model. We moved away from that as we wanted to give our growers flexibility to model their own business plan and harvest when they wanted depending on their goals.”
According to Andrew, harvesting earlier in the season is critical to tree health and return crop.
“It is an overarching philosophy for Just Avocados that most of your fruit needs to be off by flowering. If not, you are putting extra stress on your trees.”
However, Andrew admits that what is good for one orchard is not necessarily good for another – and some orchards had the ability to hang fruit post-Christmas due to their level of orchard and tree health.
“The point is that with our model you have the opportunity and the flexibility to consider these factors and make choices that relate to your long-term strategy.”
Andrew says some growers in the industry still have crop hanging from last season. “We pride ourselves on the fact that 100 per cent of our growers had 100 per cent of their crop picked last season – another critical aspect influencing tree health and return crop.”
Jacob Darling, general manager of sales and marketing for Darling Group, who also presented at the meeting says that due to the early pool option, focus around profits and allowing growers to harvest crop prior to flowering, developing key markets and channels in Asia to take the early volume is an important long-term strategy.
“We had a focus in 2019-2020 of placing 50 per cent of our export volume into Asia. Historically, we had done 15-20 per cent and that is normally where the industry sits. In 2019-2020 we achieved 43 per cent, which was a big lift.”
Changing market dynamics
Jacob says changing market dynamics will influence direction along the way and that outcomes in Australia were looking particularly good for the coming season.
“Grower outcomes are at the forefront of our mind for activity implemented today and are balanced with the requirements to get us to the long-term strategy of having a sustainable business into the future.”