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Drop in revenue ‘no surprise’ to growers

GISBORNE's David and Judi Grey, one of the district's bigger commercial avocado growers, have not been surprised to see the drop in revenue experienced by growers elsewhere in the country.

A Radio New Zealand story points to avocado growers having a tough run this season, with large volumes of fruit coupled with weaker than usual demand pushing down returns.

Growers in some parts of the country report returns down about a third on this time last year.

New Zealand Avocado said less product was being exported to Australia because of an oversupply there of locally grown avocados, while in New Zealand Covid-19 lockdown restrictions had dented sales to restaurants and cafes.

Bay of Plenty grower Hugh Moore described the situation as “a perfect storm”.

Another challenge for exporters was Covid-19 related freight delays and higher shipping costs, which made reaching markets in Asia harder than usual, he said.

“The wholesale market is flooded . . . everyone's going to run at a loss this year.”

New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular said this would be one of the toughest seasons for the industry in the last decade.

“On the positive side, we've got a good crop, we've got a good volume, but we're faced with those global disruptions.”

The Greys said the oversupply situation was not a surprise to them.

“We could see it coming a couple of years ago because we knew about the plantings in Australia and how they would impact on the market,” David Grey said.

“It was always going to happen because Western Australian fruit competes with the New Zealand avocado export season, and they have a bumper crop too this year.

“It is like a perfect storm, but it's one the industry should have seen coming.

“It has been a bit irresponsible to hype up the industry the way it has been in New Zealand when it comes to Hass avocado production.”

Mr Grey said he and his wife have stepped aside a bit from the industry.

“But what's being said is exactly right.

​“Too much of the Hass crop was picked too early and that started the market off on a bad foot.”

The Greys from Bushmere Road will start to pick their Hass crop in the next week.

“We have always said the Hass variety should not be picked before October, because they're not fully mature,” Judi Grey said.

David said there would certainly be a drop in returns for their Hass as well this season because of the over-supply.

“But fortunately we don't rely on avocados alone from our orchard production.”

The Greys will harvest one of the new “green” variety of avocados in December, the unique GreyStar, and that crop looks really good too in terms of quality and volume,” Mr Grey said.

They will harvest their other unique green variety Eclipse next April.

“We always wanted to get a better quality avocado and since the Country Calendar programme that featured our new GreyStar and Eclipse varieties we have been inundated with inquiries.

“Hundreds of people have called us about them. It's been a huge response.

“The prospects for those varieties are better than for Hass and we hope to be at the premium end of the market.

“Hopefully the returns from those new varieties will be more satisfactory than the returns currently for the Hass variety.”

Jen Scoular said New Zealand Avocado's market research showed about 30 percent of New Zealanders did not buy avocados.

“We hope the lower prices on offer this season will help entice them.

“We're certainly working on increasing the demand for avocados in the New Zealand market.”

changing times: Avocado growers David and Judi Grey are looking forward to harvesting their new varieties in December, and in April. File picture