Prop­a­ga­tors keep pace with pres­sure

A big push from avo­cado nurs­eries has seen the wait-time for trees nearly halved.

The Orchardist - - Avocados - By Kris­tine Walsh

Re­cently there had been a wait­ing list of two years for grow­ers want­ing new trees, but nurs­eries have stepped up pro­duc­tion so new orders can gen­er­ally be filled within a year.

“Be­cause of that, we’re not see­ing the de­lays that we used to,” said Brad Siebert, biose­cu­rity and pro­gramme man­ager for New Zealand Avo­cado.

“That’s not be­cause de­mand has di­min­ished – in fact, it is in­creas­ing. It’s be­cause nurs­eries have stepped up their pro­duc­tion to meet the needs of the in­dus­try.”

For com­par­i­son, he spoke to Trevor Dukes of ma­jor South African fresh pro­duce com­pany, Univeg, who has been in New Zealand ex­plor­ing the in­dus­try here.

“For cer­tain va­ri­eties grow­ers over there are hav­ing to wait un­til 2026,” he said.

“So we’ve got it pretty good.”

In gen­eral, the in­dus­try is go­ing strong despite the lower vol­umes har­vested in 2017-2018.

In his an­nual re­port New Zealand Avo­cado Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NZAGA) chair Tony Pon­der said even in the face of the low-vol­ume sea­son, grow­ers had seen record or­chard gate re­turns and the in­dus­try was “well on track to meet the au­da­cious goals of qua­dru­pling sales and tre­bling pro­duc­tiv­ity by 2023”.

“With much lower vol­umes we have seen in­dus­try value fall from $200 mil­lion in 2016-17 to $152m in 201718, but the growth is not just about mar­ket value, but about in­dus­try strength and con­sol­i­da­tion,” he said.

“It is very pleas­ing to re­port that the sea­son in re­view saw the high­est or­chard gate re­turns for avo­cado grow­ers with per tray re­turns to the grower set­ting a new record in our in­dus­try. To­tal vol­ume was only 51 per­cent of the pre­vi­ous year but over­all value only fell 25 per­cent from 2016-17. The NZ mar­ket re­turned a record $44.3m, with ex­cep­tional per tray re­turns on a lower vol­ume.” Sig­nif­i­cantly, the in­dus­try was work­ing to se­cure sus­tain­able mar­kets for the com­ing in­crease in vol­umes and this year’s ap­proval of ac­cess to China was a mile­stone, he said.

“There has been a con­sis­tent theme emerge from our strate­gic dis­cus­sion

about be­ing one in­dus­try go­ing in one di­rec­tion. I be­lieve this has cre­ated the plat­form to sup­port the sig­nif­i­cant growth the in­dus­try has achieved, and gives real strength in our en­deav­ours go­ing for­ward.”

The in­crease in in­dus­try value has re­sulted in new plant­ings, par­tic­u­larly in North­land, where 1000 hectares have been planted in the last three years, adding to the 3800ha cur­rently in pro­duc­tion na­tion­ally, said NZAGA chief ex­ec­u­tive Jen Scoular.

“Con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try is also demon­strated by ris­ing land prices in avo­cado-grow­ing re­gions; grow­ing in­ter­est in re­ju­ve­nat­ing old or­chards; and land not pre­vi­ously seen as suit­able be­ing de­vel­oped for avo­cado pro­duc­tion.”

When it came to ac­cess­ing plants, Scoular said the coun­try’s two large nurs­eries had done well in in­creas­ing their ca­pa­bil­ity, and three more nurs­eries had sprung up to sup­port the in­dus­try. Nurs­ery pro­duc­tion has jumped from 30,000 to 200,000 in the last five years. But while wait-times had di­min­ished, de­mand still out­stripped the rate of sup­ply as more land was con­verted to avo­cado or­chards and ex­ist­ing grow­ers planted more trees.

Though the cyclic bear­ing habits of many avo­cado trees did not help the last sea­son it bodes well for the cur­rent. As har­vest started in Au­gust there were na­tional pro­duc­tion fore­casts of up to 3.5m trays, 1.3m more than the pre­vi­ous sea­son.And as time goes on Te Puke pro­duce com­pany Seeka be­lieves the 2019-2020 re­lease of com­mer­cial quan­ti­ties of its GEM va­ri­ety, which the Lyn­wood, Whangarei, and River­sun, Gis­borne, nurs­eries have been li­censed to sup­ply, will help smooth out the sea­sons as it is less prone to al­ter­nate bear­ing.

Mean­while, open­ing the New Zealand Avo­cado In­ter­na­tional In­dus­try Con­fer­ence in Tau­ranga last month, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern said her grand­par­ents’ ex­pe­ri­ence as grow­ers had given her an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the hard work in­volved.

“In a very short time we’ve seen the ap­petite for av­o­ca­dos – a fruit that was not that long ago con­sid­ered ex­otic – grow ex­po­nen­tially,” she said.

“That is tes­ta­ment to the pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion of all of you.”

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