Record results – July 2021

By Jen Scoular

I very much enjoy the title light-heartedly given to me by Jamie Mackay at Newstalk ZBs Country radio show, of the most enthusiastic CEO in NZ. Talking avocados in the media can be a challenge – it’s great for avocado visibility and we need to get our message across but we do want to be able to share the whole message. When a 15 minute conversation is cut into 3 half sentence sound bites, the message in most cases gets very blurred. Bad news also seems to be most in demand, so when we have terrific news of a record season, against so many odds, it is wonderful to be offered the opportunity to report exactly that – enthusiastically, positively and in full. Thanks Jamie for that!

Our news is that the avocado industry recorded record value in both the export and New Zealand markets in 2020-21. $227m was added to the New Zealand economy giving growers a record return on their avocados. Volumes were up slightly, but this was a value story, with improved returns from most markets. We were fortunate to have strong demand from our largest export market Australia due to poor domestic production from Western Australia, opening the door to over 4 million trays of New Zealand avocados. New Zealand avocados do compete with domestically grown Australian avocados, and previously New Zealand has exported up to 3 million trays a season. The additional volume going into the high demand Australian market improved returns but also offered a much less challenging route than Asian markets. Freight, even to Australia, caused havoc for exporters, with delays in arrivals, departures, last minute changes in route and delays in arrivals. Getting our avocados to Asia in prime condition was hugely problematic, worsened by the lack of airfreight, which exporters use constructively to ensure good consistent supply into each market.

The New Zealand market delivered another record, exceeding a value of $60m. When I started in this industry ten years ago, the NZ market never returned over $20m. A huge credit to the collaborative approach taken to grow consumer demand, educate and inform, and raise the visibility of the amazingly healthy and versatile fruit that is nurtured by our growers here in Aotearoa.

Looking ahead, the good news is that for the fourth year in a row we have a similar volume, so we have avoided those terrible dips in productivity that have plagued the industry. The tough news is that freight is not improving, either sea freight or air freight, the Australian domestic production is huge, and Chilean avocados are now being imported by Australia. As an industry we will certainly need all the collective positivity we can muster to help get through the coming season.

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