12 Mar 2019

'Quality issues' affect avocado growers in difficult season

5:48 pm on 12 March 2019

Avocado growers profits have taken a hit due to quality issues among 2018's smaller crop.

An avocado/File

An avocado/File Photo: thebigland/123RF

New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular said wet weather, early maturity and growers not always following best practice were contributors to the difficult season.

Ms Scoular said the main avocado harvest ran from July to February but things had wrapped up a couple of weeks early this year with yields down.

Ms Scoular said 65-70 percent of all avocados grown in New Zealand were exported overseas, about 80 percent of which to Australia.

Quality issues with some of the avocados sent across the ditch were challenging because the fruit did not show imperfections until they started to ripen, she said.

"Everything was exported because everything looked good in the tray through the pack house.

"We had to do a lot more repacking before fruit went into the retail market, particularly in Australia, and yes, that does mean there are additional costs and more fruit that doesn't get to the retail store because of quality issues."

Ms Scouler said the industry needed to reflect and assess ways to avoid quality issues. She advised growers to follow their best practice guide.

Bay of Plenty avocado grower John Cotterell agreed the focus needed to remain on best practice.

Mr Cotterell owns a 8.5 hectare orchard south of Katikati and said a big contributor to the quality drop was inconsistency within the industry.

"A lot of people and growers are not spraying what's recommended as best practice number of coppers per season."

Copper sprays are used in many horticultural industries to protect foliage and fruit from a range of diseases.

Mr Cotterell said while he had coped well with the weather issues this season, other growers had experienced a lot of wind burn and rot amongst their crop.

"I know of quite a few growers who have had a pretty terrible season, like pack-out wise and a lot of seasonal issues. You don't get two seasons that are ever the same, or it seems that way."

He estimated growers had lost about $10 per tray of avocados due to the poor quality.

"That $10 a tray is a lot of money to lose off your bottom line, so there won't be too many, too happy growers around. Particularly after the season before, where we had record sort of pay outs."

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