NZ: Avocado export cooperation bears fruit

As we previously reported here, earlier this month Australian avocado growers were displeased that Woolworths had switched to New Zealand suppliers a month earlier than expected, raising fears of a glut of avocados in Queensland.

However, in a move that reflects increased co-operation within the NZ industry, key exporters agreed to hold back on the Australian market to allow the locally grown product to clear.

Large parts of Australia - traditionally New Zealand's biggest export market - transition to the New Zealand imports in the second week of September, though it can vary depending on the season.

"Our customers in Australia do their best to determine the right date to transition, based on the information their suppliers give them," said Alistair Young, director of Southern Produce, part of AVOCO, NZ's biggest avocado exporter, which supplies Woolworths.

"From time to time that information tends to get confused and there is an overlap, with NZ fruit arriving while Australian fruit is still available," he said.

"One of the responses to the Australian fruit running on longer than expected, was to back off the volumes we were shipping into the Australian market. We actually delayed, in consultation with our customers, in some states to allow the Australian fruit to go through. We're not interested in creating an oversupplied market."

That response reflected the greatly increased co-operation within avocado exporters since the Australian market collapsed in 2011.

Seeka general manager growers and marketing manager, Annmarie Lee, said exporters had got together after 2011.

"We said we've got to get better as an exporting group," she said. "We're now collaborating much better around crop estimates and crop flow so we don't end up with a bubble in Australia."

Co-operation includes regular fortnightly conference calls and monthly meetings where information is shared on crop volumes.

"In hindsight, we weren't good at sharing market intelligence in 2011," said Avocado NZ chief executive Jen Scoular, noting there was also now a weekly report on all of the shipments exporters have made by market.

"Our industry and the exporters' council work very collaboratively to ensure they do know what is going on in all the markets. They don't talk price, but they do talk about volumes and they recognise that all of their actions impact what the result will be for growers at the end of the year."

The avocado industry is set to deliver 7.6 million trays this season - nearly double the volume available last year and its biggest crop ever.

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