As with most horticultural commodities, every season can be different as influenced by a variety of factors, rainfall, temperature at key times, or market returns. As growers, we have a limited ability to influence these factors, especially market returns. What we can influence though is our orchard’s health, productivity, and crop quality which are vital for long term profitability.
Indicatively, 2021-22 is forecast to be a challenging season for market dynamics and returns for the New Zealand avocado industry. It is important to put this into context; Just Avocados is being very conservative at this early point in the season and the marketing team is focussed on maximising the outcome.
For most people, orchard ownership is a long-term game. Decisions made today do not just influence this season, but two to three seasons out as well. At Just Avocados, a key component of our philosophy is that orchard management should not change significantly because of what is happening in the market. Skimping on orchard management might be tempting this season but can have a negative impact in the future.
The Just Avocados Grower Services Team has put together some guidelines for discussion that can help you keep a focus on the longer-term plan and manage your way through 2021-22.
Get on top of financial management
Prepare your own budgets and have full ownership of them. Monthly cashflow budgets should be monitored closely.
Look out to winter next season as the overdraft typically peaks then. Generally, having a good understanding of the financial aspects of the business, will give growers a much better sense of being in control.
Repairs, maintenance, purchases and contracted services
Where possible, can you complete some of the repairs and maintenance yourself?
Review your proposed capital expenditure budget for this season. Can any significant investments be differed?
Review the costs of the services you contract out. The primary focus would be on periodic contractors such as shelter topping or removal (note trimming every 12 – 18 months is recommended).
Pruning is a key tool we have for mitigating biennial bearing. Indicatively, bud development is strong for this coming spring across most regions. A decision to defer pruning could impact on the 2023-24 crop, not next season. Re-prioritising some of the pruning activities may be considered to focus on higher tree health areas, post picking.
Poorer health trees may be pruned more aggressively now (or post a select pick), especially if they have smaller or lower quality fruit (generally linked). Indicatively, smaller fruit sizes and class three fruit may show a marginal return this season. Picking this fruit may be uneconomical and pruning to waste could be considered to encourage good tree recovery for fruit set in 2022-23.
Achieving target tree condition at pollination is a critical focus and maximizing the utilisation of inputs is a key to success. However, the fertiliser programme can be tweaked, not wholesale reduced, following analysis of soil and leaf tests.
Just Avocados advocates 60 per cent to 70 per cent of crop off by flowering. Where you have higher tree health you may look to reduce this percentage to circa 60 per cent, allowing more fruit to size. Alternately, if strip picking, potentially look to defer this marginally if fruit size is smaller.
So far, this season, we are seeing some great pack-out reports, good fruit size profile and strong volume growth again. When we put this in the context of orchard financial performance, we may see this mask some of the downside effects of the indicative market pricing.
Each orchard and orchardists’ situation are unique, specifically in tree heath and fruit size. Close consultation with your grower rep. is recommended to discuss what orchard management aspects are needed to maximize the return from your orchard and what the key nutritional targets are that need to be met. They will also be able to share with you some of the decisions other growers are making to maximize long-term productivity and profitability.
Just Avocados has developed a performance planning template and a guide to the top 10 practices for success to assist in the long-term planning of your orchard. Please contact us to discuss: www.justavocados.co.nz