Claims that Australia’s recent hike in avocado prices has been due to Western Australian growers altering their harvest have been dismissed by Avocados Australia CEO John Tyas.
The price of avocados has hit A$3.90 per piece at leading retailers Coles and Woolworths, and up to A$7.99 for large-sized fruit at independents in recent weeks.
The high prices were put to a production lull in Western Australia combined with rains in New Zealand that limited imported volumes in the market post-Christmas.
Since then, claims have been made that some growers in Western Australia shifted their fruit to the pre-Christmas period to benefit from the high demand and low prices that saw fruit move quickly.
Antony Allen, CEO of The Avolution and former CEO of Avocados Australia, told Fairfax that the pre-Christmas market manipulation was an “innocent mistake” that saw producers keep wholesale prices artificially low.
"[Producers] were artificially keeping [wholesale prices] lower. And that's great for that period, but doing that meant we used up more avocados before Christmas and therefore had less after Christmas," Allen said. "Some of the sheds out of Western Australia implemented that decision. It was something that seemed very strange to the rest of the industry."
Tyas has called these claims “ludicrous”, arguing that historically there has been a lower supply of avocados over January and February, which normally pushes prices up during this period.
“There is a limit to how much growers can vary their harvest schedule,” Tyas said. “There are too many steps in our supply chain to ramp up supply – the growers would need to contract extra pickers, and the knock-on effect is that the packers would need to schedule extra staff and more trucks for transport and this simply can’t happen at a moment’s notice.”
The shortage of avocados on the market since Christmas has been the result of harvest delays due to wet weather, and fires in Western Australia that have caused transport delays, Tyas said.
“It is ludicrous to think that growers would push fruit through at lower prices to create a supply shortage and demand spike that they can’t meet,” Tyas added.
Labelled a ‘crisis’ by some local media, reportedly causing ‘havoc’ for Mexican restaurants, and putting pressure on some cafes selling ‘smashed avocado on toast’, the high prices of avocados are unlikely to drop until Queensland produce hits the market in March.