Struggling avocado growers are appealing to customers to smash their way through a glut of cheap fruit before it sends many in the industry to the wall.
Avocado supply is outstripping demand across the country leaving many growers struggling to make a profit.
Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas said the industry was desperate to lift the domestic and international intake of the fruit.
“Australians are some of the highest consumers of avocados in the world already but we need to ramp that up further,” he said.
“[Australians] were eating around 4 kilograms of avocados per person in 2021, but we need to be getting up to around 5 to 6kg.”
Mr Tyas said almost 80 per cent of Australian households ate avocados but there was still room to grow.
Growers ask consumers to buy big
The oversupply situation is set to worsen due to hundreds of new avocado trees that were planted within the past decade coming into production, adding to the surplus of fruit.
Farmer Nola Stumm said she was worried about the future of her 160-hectare avocado farm at Comboyne on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast.
“We’ve got a lot of young plantings that are coming into the market [but] we’ve already got plenty of fruit about,” she said.
“So we need people to be eating lots of Australian avocados.
“We also want to grow our exports but currently only Western Australia is having success accessing new markets.”
Mr Tyas said WA’s crop was down from last year, which was good news for east coast growers.
“As we come into spring and summer we’ll see supply volumes taper off,” he said.
“I suppose there’s a bit of a reprieve for east coast growers coming later this year.
“But longer term, you will most likely see massive volumes once again around the country and that trend is going to continue for the next few years to come.”
Exploring export markets
Avocados Australia is also working to access and develop new export markets.
WA growers recently gained access to the Japanese market and are set to send their first consignment as early as this week.
Mr Tyas said east coast growers were not yet included in the trade deal due to the presence of Queensland fruit fly.
“In WA, they have a species called the Mediterranean fruit fly and lots of countries around the world have that species, so there’s been lots of research over many, many years on market access protocols,” he said.
“On the east coast, we have Queensland fruit fly, which is only found in Australia.”
Mr Tyas said there had been a lot more research in recent years involving the Queensland fruit fly, which he was confident would underpin protocols enabling access to regions that already had the pest.
“Now that we’ve got that, we want to push on and really get the Australian government to negotiate these protocols for us,” he said.
“Because once the east coast has got access, we’ll be able to supply that market year-round.”
The organisation is also looking to export to India and Thailand, as well as expand its already established trade with Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Quality is key
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries extension horticulturist Simon Newett said growers needed to focus on fruit quality, which had been negatively impacted by prolonged wet weather, for Australian avocados to become a strong player in the global market.
“If you export bad quality food, we’re going to get a very bad name overseas,” Mr Newett said.
“We’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot.
“And this season, the way it’s been with all the rain and overcast conditions, [it] has made it even more challenging to get that good quality product.”