Fake news and the $1.50 avo

Is sen­sa­tion­al­is­ing the news the same as fake news?

The Orchardist - - Contents -

I’m preach­ing to the con­verted here a lit­tle al­though after that 13 min­utes rather sur­pris­ing ser­mon at the royal wed­ding, preach­ing is ob­vi­ously okay.

As read­ers you all know about sea­son­al­ity. About the re­al­ity of crop avail­abil­ity at cer­tain times of the year. About sup­ply highs and lows, about sea­sonal fluc­tu­a­tions be­cause of weather, or trends, or a par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion.

We heard the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Pota­toes NZ con­firm that New Zealand was not run­ning out of potato chips when the potato sup­ply was low late last year and we hear al­ways that ki­wifruit or ap­ples are look­ing for a bumper or a smaller crop. We all know that straw­ber­ries are read­ily avail­able for Christ­mas but that as­para­gus starts get­ting short in sup­ply as Christ­mas ar­rives. We know ku­mara prices go up be­cause of poor grow­ing weather for ku­mara and we share the pain of those grow­ers strug­gling to get the pro­duc­tiv­ity they strive to achieve.

We are all pro­duc­ing crops com­mer­cially so price does come into the equa­tion. We know that if we are lucky enough to grow in an area with a cli­mate al­low­ing ear­lier ma­tu­rity of a crop, then we might get to mar­ket early, when prices re­flect a lower sup­ply. But when the broc­coli in my gar­den is fi­nally ready, I know that a head will cost $1 rather than the $3 a head it cost

when I de­cided I’d grow my own.

So why does me­dia get ex­cited about avocado

pric­ing in our off-sea­son?

We don’t im­port av­o­ca­dos, so all av­o­ca­dos avail­able in New Zealand are grown in New Zealand. Very few crops are avail­able year round, es­pe­cially ones that don’t store well, so we try to en­sure av­o­ca­dos

are eaten within 40 days of har­vest.

Our big­gest chal­lenge is still the in­her­ent vari­abil­ity of yield from our av­o­ca­dos, partly be­cause that is just what the Hass avocado tree does nat­u­rally, in part too from the more er­ratic weather we have in New Zealand than Cen­tral Mex­ico where

av­o­ca­dos orig­i­nate from.

We have an ex­port sea­son, Au­gust to March when av­o­ca­dos are plen­ti­ful. Not as plen­ti­ful as some would like, but we are work­ing on that. Out­side of that ex­port sea­son we have the shoul­der sea­sons. Out­side the shoul­der sea­son, par­tic­u­lar on low sup­ply years, we have a scarcity of av­o­ca­dos.

That pe­riod is now, and that scarcity of fruit means the price will in­crease.

I com­ple­ment the me­dia for their creativity, they do go a long way for a good story. This year they went to Perth, via Face­book. It started with a post of New Zealand av­o­ca­dos sell­ing in New Zealand at $6.99 and sup­pos­edly New Zealand av­o­ca­dos sell­ing in Perth for $1.50, or so the re­tail store price ticket sug­gested.

It was pretty ob­vi­ous to us that the av­o­ca­dos in Perth were not from New Zealand. Firstly our last ex­ports went to Aus­tralia in Fe­bru­ary, so they would be pretty old av­o­ca­dos if they were from New Zealand and sell­ing in May in Perth. These av­o­ca­dos were still green, so def­i­nitely not ex­ported from New Zealand. Sec­ondly, New Zealand av­o­ca­dos must be clipped at har­vest, leav­ing a small amount of stalk on the avocado. In Aus­tralia they are plucked, leav­ing no stalk. The av­o­ca­dos in Perth had no stalk. Thirdly, and I know re­search takes time and maybe get­ting the next story leaves lit­tle time to ver­ify the last story, but the Perth av­o­ca­dos had a la­bel on them which was the la­bel of an Aus­tralian grown brand.

But this Face­book post rather took off. The story quickly spread to the NZ Her­ald, stuff.co.nz and was talked about on the na­tion­wide tele­vi­sion show, The Project. NZ Avocado did re­spond on Face­book to cor­rect the orig­i­nal post and story. I re­sponded to The Project through twit­ter to cor­rect com­ments made on tele­vi­sion. We high­lighted to our grow­ers that the me­dia was less than ac­cu­rate in their story.

I hear there is no such thing as bad pub­lic­ity and the me­dia asked for in­ter­views with us but can­celled when we shared with them the facts.

For many hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tors, our ob­jec­tive is to share with the world the au­then­tic, amaz­ing sto­ries about New Zealand grow­ers pro­duc­ing the best, high qual­ity, safe food for the world. The shar­ing of that story needs me­dia seek­ing re­al­ity, seek­ing the truth and leav­ing fake news out of the sto­ries.

“I hear there is no such thing as bad pub­lic­ity and the me­dia asked for in­ter­views with us but can­celled when we shared with them the facts.”

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