Northland avocado study gets underway – December 2021

By Jen Scoular

NZ Avocado is undertaking a study to understand the opportunity for avocados in Northland.

Over 1000 hectares have been planted in avocados over the past five years, mostly conversions from dairy, with tree nurseries still seeing good orders going out over the next few years.

The project is will seek to understand what can support industry growth in Northland, from labour requirements to schooling for those in the industry, to logistics and cool store facilities to transport for packing and shipping avocados.

Acknowledging the need to ensure sustainable growth, the study will look at water requirements and availability, the ability to spray agrichemicals using helicopters and the positive impact jobs and career options might have on regional New Zealand. It is not just about avocados. We will certainly share the resulting report with other sectors, with an expectation that if avocados thrive, other sectors and the communities there will as well.

As the industry body we understand the landscape and we know many of the orchardists, or commercial entities planting, as many need to become a member of the NZ Avocado Growers Association before they purchase clonal avocado trees.

We have received support from The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) with the study and have now held three online workshops with growers and stakeholders to look ahead, hear growers’ views on the opportunities and challenges of supporting industry growth, and discuss ideas on solutions to those challenges.

Holding strategic workshops online is certainly more difficult than face to face, but when the participants are happy to share their knowledge, their questions and their expertise, it makes for some excellent conversation. It provides the opportunity to hear from new and old growers on the same call, hear about technologies that could be adopted from apples or summerfruit to use on avocados and to hear about the basic cost structure those investing in new developments operate under.

The feedback participants provided will help to further inform the study. We certainly appreciate the collaborative way the participants share that information. We have such a diverse range of growers, owning nearly 1,700 orchards, ranging from 0.1ha to 200 hectares, with yields from under 5 tonnes a hectare to 50 tonnes per hectare. NZ Avocado expect to receive the report by March 2022.

The holiday period is a busy time for avocados with our export harvest volumes and shipping peaking in December and January each year. We wish all growers a successful harvest and safe and happy festive season. 2021 has been a very challenging season for the avocado industry. A big thank you to the avocado growers, packers, marketers, retailers and service providers who are adapting, innovating and generally doing everything they can to find solutions to the frequent challenges of this season.

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