Avocado popularity is converting dairy farmers

Rural Exchange 12/05/2018

Soaring avocado prices have reached peak “first world problems” in Auckland, with prices nearing $7 per avo. 

The rise in popularity of ‘smashed avo on toast’ is certainly a factor in the increasing demand for year-round avocado production.

Last year, the avocado price peaked at $9 each.

The lack of supply occurs because of seasonal growth and has also been amplified by a low volume growth last season.

And New Zealand doesn't import avocados other than from nearby Australia, due to biosecurity risks. 

Australian avocados must be cold-treated for 16 days before being exported to New Zealand, making the imported fruit a time-consuming option to keep up with increasing demand at supermarkets.

NZ Avocados CEO Jen Scoular explained that the rising price has led to positive growth in more people planting avocado orchards.

Northland has 4,000 hectares for avocados currently, with the industry expecting 1,000 more to be dedicated to avocado orchards. The new land is largely coming from converted dairy or dry stock farms.  

“We are certainly reacting to the increase in demand,” she told RadioLIVE.

The grower return was $38,000 per hectare last year, with “a really good orchard” pulling in $80-90,000.

At such high returns, it's no wonder why dairy farmers and other farmers alike could be tempted to swap their operations for an avocado orchard. 

The culprit behind skyrocketing demand?

But Ms Scoular admits that irregular yields is a challenge that the industry is facing, but expects the Primary Growth Partnership and research to fix it in time.

The New Zealand Avocados Go Global programme, boosted by $4.28 million in Primary Growth Partnership funding, seeks to increase the productivity and capability within the avocado industry across the country to deliver significant additional returns.

Avocado enthusiasts have likely noticed a discrepancy in the fruit’s pricing, with the product ranging from $4 to $7 per avo depending on the store.

Ms Scoular attributes the pricing inconsistency to a range of factors. Prices could be lower in some stores in order to lure shoppers in to buy other products.

And with avocado size widely varying to boot, she notes that a large avocado is likely going to be pricier than others.

But in the end, it’s the store that decides its price points. 

Watch the full interview with Jen Scoular above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.