NZAGA Chair Linda Flegg and CEO Jen Scoular[94]

Linda Flegg and Jen Scoular

New Zealand’s avocado industry has continued its meteoric rise, with the 2020 avocado season producing record volumes in terms of total crop and exports.

A total 44,000 tonnes of avocados were harvested, with 5.1m trays (5.5kg) exported to 11 international markets, representing an increase of 10 per cent on the previous season.

Over half (54 per cent) of New Zealand’s avocado production came from the Bay of Plenty region in 2020 with 39 per cent coming out of the Northland.

“This is an extraordinary result for the avocado industry” said NZ Avocado chief executive, Jen Scoular. “Facing the season with Covid lockdowns, significant freight disruption, an inability to meet face to face with customers and a small fruit profile, it is a credit to the entire value chain to achieve this record result.”

NZ Avocado Growers’ Association chair Linda Flegg said returns to growers for export and domestic avocados were very pleasing given the circumstances.

“[Despite] the uncertainty at the beginning of the season around the impacts of Covid on our markets, and the disruption to global freight and logistics, our avocado exporters and NZ marketers did extremely well to achieve successful outcomes for growers despite the challenges,” said Flegg.

Demand for New Zealand-grown avocados was strong in export markets including Australia, Thailand and Taiwan. Avocado volumes to Australia were up 45 per cent on the previous season, buoyed by the trans-tasman neighbour’s reduced domestic production.

Australia was New Zealand’s largest market for avocado exports receiving more than 4.2m (5.5kg) trays.

Around 500,000 trays of avocados were exported to eight markets across Asia. Of those, Thailand was the largest market, followed by Taiwan and Singapore.

Volumes were down in some markets, where sea and air freight disruption had a major impact on New Zealand’s avocado exports.

The domestic New Zealand market also delivered good value for avocados, with Scoular highlighting the growth seen at home.

“Around 2.5m trays worth over NZ$60m were sold in New Zealand in the 2020 season. The New Zealand market is the second largest market for New Zealand avocados and has seen significant growth in the past five years, from what was a NZ$30m market in 2015,” Scoular said.

“We continue to invest in avocado promotion in New Zealand to communicate the wonderful nutrients and versatility of avocados to New Zealand consumers.”

Sizing problems no distraction

In terms of challenges, smaller average fruit size was encountered in 2020, with a significant increase in the percentage of small sized avocados in the crop.

“Thankfully early indications show our fruit size is looking larger for the coming season (21/22) and more in line with New Zealand’s historical avocado fruit size profile,” explained Flegg.

Further developing markets for avocados from New Zealand will remain a priority in 2021, with Australian domestic supply forecast to increase considerably this year and over the coming five years.

“Demand for avocados continues to increase in markets across Asia, and the key challenge will be meeting export plans and delivering premium quality New Zealand avocados to these markets during a time of continued disruption to global freight and logistics,” noted Flegg.

All eyes on WAC 2023

Planning is underway to host the biggest avocado gathering in the world, the World Avocado Congress in 2023.

In a statement, NZ Avocado said the four-yearly event represents “an extraordinary opportunity for the avocado industry to come together in New Zealand from around the globe and showcase avocados to the world.

“The opportunity is ripe for avocados and for the wider horticulture and agriculture sectors to share stories of New Zealand’s sustainable food production.”