Applauding the industry’s exponential growth, NZ’s newly-gained export access to China’s market and sharing her upbringing around avocados is how Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern opened the 2018 New Zealand Avocado International Industry Conference.
After a five-year hiatus, the conference, with a theme of ‘Growing avocados for the world’, was opened on August 29 by the Prime Minister. The next day more than 400 delegates arrived at ASB Baypark to hear an international line-up of speakers talk about everything from scientific research on clonal propagation to how Columbia is dealing with an explosion of avocado farms, production and export of the fruit.
The Prime Minister congratulated avocado growers of the recent success of the NZ avocado industry, which has been driven by a carefully grown, premium quality product that meets the needs of health conscious consumers globally.
“I do remember a time when avocados used to be somewhat of a novelty on the restaurant menu and now they’re blamed for millennial spending habits,” joked the Prime Minister.
“In a very short time we’ve seen the appetite for avocados – a fruit that was not that long ago considered exotic – grow exponentially. That is testament to the passion and dedication of all of you.”
The Prime Minister said the avocado industry demonstrates the potential NZ has in its horticulture sector. “Yours is a success story if there ever was one.”
And she also talked of her grandparents having an avocado orchard when she was a child, and her appreciation of the hard work involved in bringing them to our tables.
“The theme for this conference is growing avocados for the world – and this industry is vitally important to NZ, particularly as an export industry.
“Avocados are our third-largest fresh fruit export – and we are sixth-largest avocado exporter, topped only by Mexico, Peru, Chile, the EU and the US.
“And it is particularly important for our regions – especially the Bay of Plenty and Northland.”
The Prime Minister said the value of our avocado industry is predicted to reach $500 million by 2040. “A global demand for the fruit is increasing 10 per cent annually, according to industry estimates.
“And the main driver for this is the increasing recognition of avocados as part of a healthy and nutritious diet. New York has its own Avocado bar – where avocado is in every single item on the menu.”
The Prime Minster said gaining export access to China this year has been a huge milestone – which she credited to a lot of work and negotiation over a number of years by delegates of both countries – that opens up such a huge opportunity for NZ’s avocado industry.
“We’re one of only four countries that can export to China. And avocado imports to China are growing rapidly – from being worth under $1 million in 2006 to $18 million in 2017.”
She also touched on challenges facing the industry, such as irregular fruit bearing seeing NZ’s avocado volumes and values still being driven by swings in our biennial pattern, but said she hoped more investment research into varieties and management techniques underway would help with this issue.
“There’s also ways, which we’ve been striving for as well, to add value to avocados by producing avocado oil, improve quality and freshness by investing in cool chain infrastructure and increasing market demand by extending the growing season and minimising that irregular bearing pattern.”
She said her Government is aimed at moving from volume to value in the primary industries sector. “And in the spirit of kaitiakitanga that’s grounded in not only the preservation but the wise utilisation of natural resources…so that they are here for future generations.”