'Huge pressure' on New Zealand avocado growers after two unprofitable years

Bad weather last year meant that most of the fruit was inadequate for exporting.
Bad weather last year meant that most of the fruit was inadequate for exporting. Photo credit: Newshub

By Sally Murphy of RNZ

Avocado growers are hopeful for a better season after two unprofitable years.

Bad weather in 2023 meant a lot of the fruit was not good enough to export - it flooded the domestic market pushing down returns for growers.

It had been tough going, New Zealand Avocado chief executive Brad Siebert said, but the new season which is just getting started looks good.

"The crop estimate for this season is seven million trays which is similar to last season, that'll be split between domestic sales and exports and the quality is looking really good.

"We've had really great pollination which means we'll have a significant amount of fruit available."

The glut of avocados last season was in part because Australia, a key market for NZ exports, had grown more of its own.

"Over the last decade Australia has taken around 85 percent of our exports but in the last three years that's dropped below 50 percent."

Siebert said the industry had worked hard to diversify markets and is exporting to more countries this season than ever before.

"We're going back into Canada and North America, we haven't exported there in a number of years, we're also going into Asia.

"Australia presents an opportunity for us this season as well because the Western Australia crop is looking smaller."

Many growers have had two seasons in a row without any profit, he said.

"It's been really tough so there is a bit riding on this season."

This season could be make or break for many, Seeka chief executive Michael Franks said.

The company grows about 90 hectares of avocados and helps other growers pack and sell their fruit.

"Last season was hopeless," he said.

"There's huge pressure for it to be a better year this year and people have been doing everything to save costs where they can."

Franks said marketers had consolidated and made savings throughout the supply chain so more money could be returned to growers.

"Post-harvest costs have come down and we're trying to pick across fewer orchards, so we go through a strip pick an orchard rather than doing multiple visits.

"This season there will be plenty of fruit available but prices will likely be a bit higher for consumers because we shouldn't have the oversupply like last season."