Fake news and the $1.50 avo
Is sensationalising the news the same as fake news?
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.”