The avocado harvest and marketing season is well underway, but it will be a long one for growers, pickers, packers and exporters.
“We need to be harvesting right through until February to maximise grower returns. Control of harvest and quality of the fruit will be the key to returning a good result back to the growers,” says SeekaFresh Manager Annmarie Lee.
Exporters are working together to understand the market and to look after the valuable Australian market by controlling the weekly volumes and supplying other markets at a lower return to protect Australian return, says Annmarie.
Lesley Shield, General Manager JP Exports Ltd also believes it will be a tough year for growers. “There is more NZ fruit available than in 2011/2012 on top of a large crop from Western Australia. Our customers are prepared as they can be for the influx of the NZ product.”
Lesley says JP Exports Ltd is a small exporter but to play its part is not sending its whole supply to Australia. “We will be co -shipping with two other exporters to Japan.”
Andrew Darling of Just Avocado says growers should understand the cost of investing in poorer returning markets for the long term future of the industry. “Growth in these markets is critical and if we try to over supply Australia we will end up with a situation potentially as difficult as 2011/12.”
New market development is something the AVANZA group has been working hard on for the last eight years in preparation for a big year like this.
“Australia is seen as New Zealand’s premium market but needs to be managed well in respects to volume flow and total market capacity in order to maximise the outcome and avert a market crash.”
Andrew says all exporters understand the challenging year ahead. “Communicating well together and peer pressure between us all to get it as right as we can will feature strongly.”
Jarrod Redwood, Avocado Programme Manager at FreshMax says Russia’s ban on imports from the EU, America and Australia in retaliation to their sanctions over the situation in Ukraine has seen an increase in inquiries to Freshmax from Russia for New Zealand avocados.
Freshmax has increased its exports to Asia and is continuing to identify markets in the region. It has also established a process-grade programme to Australia which will not impact on class one fruit but will add value for growers.
John Carroll of AVOCO says this season will be hugely different from 2011-2012. “Three years ago there was a false belief that the Australian market was indestructible and would take any amount of fruit, despite the pre-season warnings. The industry didn’t realise how fierce and punishing it could become when over supplied.”
Individual exporters didn’t know enough about what others were doing. Now there is more communication between exporters. “The structure and the mentality within the industry has moved on from three years ago.”
Western Australia’s main supply kicked in in October and continue until January, which means local fruit will meet New Zealand fruit head on. “We will continue to supply Australia through the summer. We have a better opportunity with Australian customers this season than we did two years ago when there was a strong preference for Australian grown fruit. Our performance last summer earned us a lot of credit that is helping us now.”
Alistair Young, director of Southern Produce Ltd says problems should only occur if flow plans are not followed or if sales are below expectation and product logjams in the markets. “Then we will need to reduce flow to allow for market adjustment.”
The Avocado Exporters Council has instigated a fortnightly flow plan revision to monitor harvest volumes coupled with a weekly conference call amongst all exporters to discuss market conditions. Avec has combined crop estimates with Australia’s to get a combined volume picture.