April 2021 blog

By Jen Scoular

We have begun planning for the World Avocado Congress being held here in New Zealand in April 2023. Speaking to a prospective conference organiser, they suggested people are very keen to start planning activities to get together. What will the next two years bring? With nearly 100 million vaccines given in the US alone, I certainly hope 2021 continues as the year of the vaccine. I’m certainly keen to roll my sleeves up and I hope most New Zealanders feel the same.

The atmosphere at the recent celebration in Parliament of the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables, demonstrated the desire of the horticulture sector to get together. The event saw a great turn-out, passionate conversations and energy to drive growth in our sectors across productivity, capability and profits, while recognising the need to also measure any impact growing fruit and vegetables might have. In NZ, horticulture only accounts for 1.4% of agricultural emissions, but we are moving forward to set policy in regard measuring and then reducing our impact on the world.

Across the avocado sector we are undertaking a life cycle assessment from nursery to market to measure our carbon footprint. Over 50 orchards will be analysed with in-depth surveys and conversations with the growers, and on-orchard methods and inputs measured in great detail. We already benchmark productivity of orchards, and are adding additional data on on-orchard applications and weather information to drill deeper into best orchard outcomes.

The avocado sector operates under the Horticulture Export Authority Act and a group of industry stakeholders met this week to review changes to the “rule book”, our Export Marketing Strategy. This annual engagement offers all stakeholders the opportunity to change, add to or refine the rules we operate under. It is quite a long but effective process, but we ensure it is well communicated so all who are impacted by changes are able to add feedback while those changes are being discussed. Our meeting included growers, packers and marketers, with our current chair and two previous chairs in the meeting. We utilise that depth of knowledge of those who have been in the sector for a number of years or decades.

We had perfect weather for a recent field day at John and Mary Bowen’s Bay of Plenty orchard. Growers do love to see other orchards, and hear from other growers about what they have done, and what has had the biggest impacts. We looked at the impact of flower pruning the previous spring, and on canopy management to open the canopy to allow light to increase productivity. The very healthy crop for the coming season certainly suggests best practice has been well followed. Our job at NZ Avocado is to support these and other growers, packers and marketers to demonstrate to the consumer that not only are New Zealand avocados delicious, nutritious and versatile, but that they were carefully and responsibly produced in a beautiful orchard by passionate growers.

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