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Have we hit peak avocado? Record crop smashing news for consumers, not so great for growers

by Mikael Harris
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Have we hit peak avocado? Record crop smashing news for consumers, not so great for growers

It’s no secret that Australians appreciate a good avocado smash, but has the supply of the brunch staple finally outstripped demand? 

Key points:

  • Avocado harvests expected to hit record 120,000 tonnes
  • Avocado production has increased by 200 per cent over the last decade
  • As avocado prices drop, farmers look for export oppurtunities 

Over the past 10 years, Australia’s demand for avocados boomed and Australian farmers responded with a huge increase in plantings.

The national harvest is on track to reach 120,000 tonnes this financial year, up from just 39,600 tonnes in 2010. 

That’s a 200 per cent increase in the last 12 years.

The big jump in production this year was largely due to good seasonal conditions in Western Australia and the harvest is likely to eclipse the industry’s forecasts. 

“I did some forecasting a few years ago that projected that we would hit about 115,000 tonnes by 2024/25,” said John Tyas, CEO of Avocados Australia.

“But this year, with Western Australia having such a massive crop, we are exceeding that target. 

But with this increase in avocados has come a pretty hefty drop in prices — which has been great for consumers and not so great for farmers.

In the past few months, major supermarkets have even been selling avocados for as low as a dollar each.

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With production set to keep increasing, Avocados Australia Chairman Jim Kochi said farmers needed to start focusing more on fruit quality and less on quantity.

“We need to make sure that the fruit that we have is more robust and more suited to what the market wants and what the consumer wants, rather than try to grow more pieces of fruit,” he said.

“If we can satisfy the consumer, we will have a customer for a long period of time and they will be repeat customers.

Looking beyond the Aussie market

Australia has exported relatively few avocados in recent years but, as local prices drop, farmers are looking more into export opportunities.

In 2020/2021 only about four per cent of Australia’s avocados were exported — with the largest portion going to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The industry’s peak body said it was looking into developing these trade relationships.

“The thing that we really need is access to new markets and big markets,” said Mr Tyas.

“We have access to Japan for Western Australia and we want to get the rest of the country on to that protocol.

“We are progressing an application with India. One day we would like to get to China but I think that’s a long way off.

“I think there is a realisation in the industry that we need to do a lot more to drive that export growth in the coming years.”

Imports aren’t slowing either

Despite the huge numbers of avocados grown in Australia the fruit is still imported.

Last year about 24,700 tonnes of fresh and dried avocados entered the country — a 64 per cent jump in imports from 2019.

Most avocado imports come from New Zealand and fill a gap in the market during Australia’s slower production months.

For the first time last year, avocados from Chile were also imported.

But Mr Tyas said it was unlikely many more Chilean avocados would make their way into Australia.

“I’d be really surprised if there’s going to be the opportunities for imported Chilean fruit as there were last year,” he said.

A bunch of avocados.

Avocado growers in Australia are still seeing a bright future ahead for their crop.(Bridget Fitzgerald)

For Martin Inderbitzen, who grows avocados on Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands, high supply and low prices haven’t put him off growing the fruit.

“Some of the numbers … are a little bit sobering but, at the end of the day, we need to control what we can control,” he said.

“We grow a great product, we grow it in a great part of the world where the trees grow very well.

“I still think there’s a great future…we’re committed.”

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