New Zealand’s avocado industry is in the midst of a planting boom, on the back of a record-breaking season.
Ashby Whitehead, chairman of industry body New Zealand Avocado, told Fairfax Media that large parcels of farming land in the Auckland and Northland regions were being converted to avocado orchards, as the sector prepares for major expansion.
This includes the acquisition of a 405ha dairy farm on Kaipara Harbour, which will be home to the Harbour Edge Avocados operation that is being funded by partly Dutch owned group Southern Paprika.
“Demand for new trees has resulted in a near trebling of production at nurseries, large commercial investors in Northland are converting dairy farms to avocado orchards and smaller orchards are maximising the productivity of their orchards,” Whitehead told Fairfax Media.
In May, New Zealand Avocado announced the industry had achieved record sales of NZ$198m over the 2016/17 season, up NZ$64m on the previous season and NZ$62m higher than the previous record set in 2013/14. Sales volumes swelled to 7.7m trays in 2016/17, an increase of 84 per cent from 2015/16.
Australia remains the industry’s largest international market by a significant margin but exporters are increasingly looking at opportunities in markets further afield, particularly in Asia.
South Korea has emerged as a strong growth market in the Far East according to Martin Napper of leading exporter Avanza, with avocado imports (from all origins) to this country set to leap from 525,000 trays last year to over 1m trays this year.
“South Korea is looking to become the second largest volume market for New Zealand exporters after Australia. Japan will move to third,” Napper told Asiafruit. “Korea is a promising market because it likes large fruit down to size 16,”
While all signs point to a prosperous long-term future, the industry is likely to endure a challenging 2017/18 campaign from a marketing prospective, with initial forecasts suggesting crop volumes could be around 50 per cent down on last season.
“The industry is going from 4.2m trays down to 2.2m trays,” said Jacob Darling of Darling Group, who export New Zealand-grown fruit under the Mr Avocado brand. “Darling Group’s respective volume will be affected significantly by this, which will challenge the marketing department. But it’s the world we live in and we are well-equipped to optimise the situation.”