10 Sep 2013

Avocado growers focus on irregular crops

1:57 pm on 10 September 2013

About 300 people involved in the avocado industries in New Zealand and Australia are meeting in Tauranga this week for a four-day growers' conference.

It will cover everything from the outlook for the new season in both countries, to the latest scientific advances looking into the avocado industry's archilles heel - irregular bearing.

Irregular, or biennial, bearing is where avocado trees produce a stellar crop one season and a poor one the next.

AVOCO is the new joint entity representing New Zealand's two biggest exporters to send fruit to Australia. Technical manager Jerome Hardy said the industry had been investigating the effectiveness of a grower pruning programme to reduce the large seasonal swings in fruit production.

"As growers start to realise that it's as important to avocados as (it is to) kiwifruit, I'm certain that we will start softening that alternate-bearing character," Mr Hardy said. "So it's more about just correcting those excesses."

By doing that, growers created the potential for a good crop in what would have been an off-year, he said.

Australian presence

More than 70 Australian avocado growers and marketers are participating in the conference.

Chief executive of New Zealand Avocados Jen Scoular says the industries in both countries realise they stand to gain a lot more by working together than they do alone.

She says there's been an industry memorandum of understanding between the two for the last eight years.

Australian production is not big enough to meet its domestic demand and the majority of its avocados are grown and produced in the Australia winter.

The New Zealand season is summer, so local growers have a window in the Australian market when there is a dearth of local product.

She says that has been the case the last 15 years.

Ms Scoular says the 2013-2014 season is shaping up to be a good one for the industry after a fairly pathetic crop last season.