A new technical manager has joined the Avoco team this month, bolstering the company’s efforts to support New Zealand avocado growers supply premium quality fruit to export markets.
Richard Kok is working alongside Danni van der Heijden, Jerome Hardy and Colin Partridge to further improve fruit quality and grower best practices. Richard will lead Avoco’s technical transfer to growers with a focus on key production matters such as fertiliser recommendations, spray programs, tree manipulation, and has additional responsibility for quality in Asian markets served by AVANZA. Danni heads up Quality & Export Systems for Avoco and takes responsibility for quality performance in Australia.
Fresh out of quarantine, Richard is settling in the Bay of Plenty with his young family and, in coming months, will be meeting with growers in their orchards to understand the nuances of New Zealand avocado production.
For the past nine years, Richard has worked at Westfalia Marketing Africa, which is part of the multinational Westfalia Fruit Group that supplies fresh and processed produce, including avocados, mangoes and lychees, to international markets through its vertically-integrated supply chain. He has held various technical roles and, for the past 18 months, Richard was Westfalia’s Commercial Manager, based in Tzaneen.
In joining Avoco, Richard says he’s enjoying getting to know New Zealand growers whose priorities are very similar to those of their peers in South Africa.
“While most of South Africa’s production is under hot, summer rainfall and grown for the European market, Kiwi growers are ultimately looking to achieve the same consistent production goals as other growers around the world.
“New Zealand’s cooler, winter rain presents different climatic challenges but all the main issues are the same: nutrition and tree health, tree manipulation, disease control, quality management and picking strategies.
“Managing the nutrition correctly to be in line with the yield estimates as well as implementing good pruning techniques will allow for a less pronounced ‘on’ and ‘off’ year bearing cycle. Water management through modern irrigation systems and monitoring of soil moisture also play a huge role in tree health, yield, and fruit quality.”
Tackling the big issues
Richard’s international experience has taught him that people involved in horticulture are passionate about what they do the world over.
Many growers have made long-term investments and every season there’s new challenges and experiences to navigate.
With the New Zealand industry facing a fruit quality crisis two years ago, he believes Avoco’s technical team was instrumental in turning that around by reminding growers of all the benefits that come from adhering to best practice principles.
“The fact that New Zealand is supplying some of the highest quality-stringent markets reinforces the importance of Avoco having a well-defined Quality Business Plan and the significant effort required to reclaim New Zealand’s reputation as a supplier of premium fruit.”
Richard adds that while he understands significant progress had been made in the past year or two, there is still room for improvement on orchards.
With climate change, his wish is that every grower understands the importance of water management.
“Water is a limited and valuable resource which we need to utilise to the best of our ability. Managing the water status of your soil and trees has a huge influence on your tree health, yield and quality.”
Avoco marketing and communications manager Steve Trickett says Richard’s appointment comes at an important stage in Avoco’s strategy to grow New Zealand’s share of the avocado market, particularly in Asia.
“The 2021-22 season is our ninth season as Avoco but our 21st as stewards of the AVANZA brand.
“Australia remains our most valuable market, but this year we’re anticipating tougher market conditions across the Tasman due to a bumper crop coming out of Western Australia.
“This season we are looking to stimulate demand for our avocados in Asian markets as part of Avoco’s five-year export strategy to raise the profile of the AVANZA brand. Over this period, we may require the Asian market arena to absorb up to 50 per cent of our total volume.
“Richard and our entire technical team’s commitment to science excellence and supporting growers is vital as we strive to achieve that goal.