23 Feb 2016

Avacado industry grapples with irregular yields

2:44 pm on 23 February 2016

Avocado New Zealand says the industry is experiencing strong growth each year, but is also having to deal with a major challenge in inconsistent yields.

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Photo: 123RF

Avocado consumption around the globe has increased by 10 percent every year for the past 11 years, but Avocado NZ chief executive Jen Scoular said irregular yields was a challenge for exports.

Ms Scoular said it was not known why, but yields were high, before dropping every other year.

"This year will probably be about 3.9 million trays in total and last year for example we had 7.1 million trays, 4.9 million the year before and 2.6 million in 2012/13."

The industry builds business with exporters and can then struggle to meet demand, she said.

"It is very difficult. We have a programme where we're developing new markets, but it makes it very difficult when one year you're really trying to push volume and the next year you're almost having to apologise for the fact there isn't as many avocados as the customer is starting to expect from New Zealand."

Although the industry was irregular, the trend and value was going up, she said.

"The industry value was $60 million back in 2012/13 and it was $135 million last year."

But with growing interest, land prices were also climbing, she said.

"Land prices have definitely gone up quite considerably, particularly in the Bay of Plenty and it's difficult to buy avocado orchards at the moment.

"In terms of new development, there's a waiting list of about two years to buy avocado trees from our nurseries."

Research underway by Avocado New Zealand and Plant and Food Research was hoped to shed light on why the trees produce irregular yields, she said.

"They've started with a project that's looking at about 62 orchards just north of Tauranga. They're drilling down to find out up to 60 different attributes of orchards next door to each other that are performing very differently and we're now able to measure the impact of some of those different management practices or inputs to better understand what the best way to manage an orchard to increase productivity and get consistency of productivity."

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