November 2022 update
By Jen Scoular
The global landscape has changed since the World Avocado Congress was last held in Colombia in 2019. As 2023 approaches, we continue to navigate the challenges of a post-pandemic world.
A core focus for the next World Avocado Congress – taking place in Auckland, 2-5 April 2023 – is the changing world of avocado production, distribution and promotion. Productivity, fruit quality, post-harvest system, global supply chains and supply and demand have been fuelling conversations around the world and raising the question, how sustainable is the global industry across environment, people and economics?
To this point, the theme for the 10th World Avocado Congress is Respectful; respect for people, respect for environment and respect for our future. Respect for people and respect for the land play a special part in Aotearoa’s identity, it underpins who we are. While the term ‘sustainability’ has become a trendy word in recent years, it’s essential we demonstrate a committed, and not tokenistic, approach.
Consumers are increasingly making more informed choices when it comes to the origins of their produce and there is real demand for products with a low ecological footprint. As an industry, we are committed to establishing verifiable sustainability credentials for avocados in New Zealand.
We stand by the robust mandatory systems across our sector. We are actively looking for continuous improvement with industry systems such as AvoGreen, supporting responsible avocado growing, research into chemistry that is more targeted, and of course plentiful rainfall. As a sector we are committed to biosecurity and the structure of government industry agreements. We commit at a number of levels, including governance, community activity including the Tauranga Moana Biosecurity initiative, operational agreements and supporting our own Biosecurity Plan.
Our sustainability journey started around five years ago and, with guidance from our colleagues at Zespri, we held workshops to understand what sustainability meant to our growers. This revealed that growers weren’t simply out to make money. They liked being better for the world. They valued using practices that improved soil health. They were proud to dig up a very healthy spade of dirt under their avocados. And they asked, can we utilise the avocados that don’t make it to class 1 or 2, can we collect and share those for food banks? How can we be better for our region?
To meet the need for verifiable sustainability credentials, the industry has undertaken a life cycle assessment for avocados, from nursery to market, partnering with Massey University and ThinkStep, with funding through the Primary Growth Partnership. A study of 50 avocado orchards, and collection of data and modelling from nursery to two of our major markets, Australia and Korea will allow us to assess and document the sustainability attributes of the avocado supply chain, particularly our carbon and water footprint. We have an amazing opportunity to present these research findings on a world stage at the World Avocado Congress in April 2023.
What does the future of the avocado industry look like? To answer this question there needs to be collaboration across the global industry, and consideration for the environment in which we grow, how we transport and sell and how we show respect for these issues. To ensure the sustainable growth of the global avocado industry, we all need play our part in this global conversation, growers especially. Register for the congress today at wacnz2023.com. See you there.