9 Aug 2018

Businesses struggling to keep up with demand for avocados

From Checkpoint, 6:22 pm on 9 August 2018

From seed to plate, avocados are in hot demand, with nurseries, cafes and garden stores alike struggling to keep up. 

People have waited up to two years for an avocado tree, and the number of trees being grown in nurseries has jumped from 30,000 to 200,000 in the last five years. 

Avocado has become a hot commodity, with the police recently arresting three people in relation to a spate of avocado thefts in Tauranga. 

Thefts have also been reported in Auckland, Te Puke, Welcome Bay, Bethlehem, Te Puna, and Katikati.

New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular says demand does not appear to be slowing down. 

Hass avocado

Photo: Wikicommons

"Recently three more nurseries have sprung up to service the need for new trees.

"The two large nurseries we've got have done fantastically in terms of increasing their capability, although in saying that we've had a couple of years where there's been a two-year waiting list to get trees."

More land has been converted to avocado orchards - and existing orchards have been planting more trees, Ms Scoular said. 

Flight Coffee Hangar assistant manager Luise Metelka says they quickly sell out of their smashed avocado on toast or guacamole specials. 

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 Flight Coffee Hangar general manager Luise Metelka. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

"It's selling out super fast - people definitely love their avocado."

But the fruit is too expensive in off-season.

"We actually had to take them off our menu. We were having to charge $12.50 for a side dish of avocado which was way too pricey, so we just took them off."

Kings Plant Barn's e-commerce manager, Billy Aiken says demand for avocados trees has roughly tripled in the last three years. 

"One of the big things that changed last year was we actually had a new type of avocado come on the market, called the Cleopatra. It's a dwarf avocado and it's the first actrual dwarf one that's been avaliable and so last year that was by far our biggest seller. 

"The sales for that variety alone were roughly equal to 2015's."

Mr Aiken warns it can take two to three years before people can start enjoying their homegrown fruit. 

Avocado trees come from Mexico so the New Zealand climate isn't ideal, Jen Schoular said, with the best growing areas being in the Northland and Gisborne regions.

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Avocados growing on a tree.  Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

"There's the wonderful dream of having an orchard that's as beautiful as an avocado orchard with its big glossy green leaves and wonderful flowers in the spring and being able to produce this amazing fruit. 

"But there's the realities of being a horticulturalist where we are very much influenced by weather and climate and soil."

Anyone thinking of growing avocados needs to do their research first, Ms Schoular said. 

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