The New Zealand avocado harvest is well under way with good volumes. Fruit quality is good but there is an abundance of smaller sized fruit. The spring weather has been challenging with wind causing quite a bit of fruit drop and interrupting harvests.
Seeka has deliberately advanced picking. Normally it would be half way through at Christmas, but in 2019 the harvest is already 55% through. Michael Franks, Seeka CEO, said that it was a reflection of a focus on new Asian markets, and an increased crop volume. Really Seeka only wanted enough fruit to support its key retail customers in the post Christmas market.
“We have been focusing on establishing our quality brand, supporting and establishing new Asian markets,” explains Franks. “Those markets tend to want an earlier, greener fruit rather than a more coloured one so to get those markets we have to harvest a little bit earlier.”
Seeka are exporting to Japan, Korea, China and Thailand as well as Australia. “Typically, we would have sold more than 90% of our export avocados in Australia , however this season we have focused on opening new markets to support our own volume growth rather than over supplying a full market. The outlook for the Australian crop is a massive increase in supply over the next few years, so for a New Zealand exporter sending more into Asia and developing new markets is important. We are also interested in collaborating with Australian producers to help them into new markets. But in saying that our Australian customers love the quality, and the brand and we are loyal to them”.
The prices in the Asian markets are competitive compared to those in Australia but Franks says quality always sells, “By offering our customers quality fruit which they know is going to hold up through the supply line we will always have good demand. Our new markets have been delighted with the fruit in 2019”
Last year saw the first New Zealand avocado exports into the Chinese market and Seeka sent a couple of containers to test the market, this year so far they have sent four containers, the company has a very good partner there and are pretty satisfied at how it is going. Franks says that the Asian market will play a very important role for the New Zealand avocado industry going forward.
Everyone wants a piece of the lucrative and fast growing Asian avocado market and there is a lot being sent from the South American producers but according to Michael those avocados tend to be at a different price point so New Zealand has to compete on quality. “New Zealand avocados take longer to mature and have a more buttery taste due to the oil content.”
Seeka is enjoying a growth in volume and market share on the back of really good returns to growers in the last few years. The company will pack 750,000 trays of which around half will be exported.
Seeka recently purchased three avocado orchards in the Northland which have been syndicated and are doing very well. The company holds the licence for the Gem avocado in New Zealand and will see the first commercial volumes next year. “Gem trees are smaller and the fruit hangs inside the tree giving it protection from the elements. It is also a later maturing fruit which will be good for the market conditions. The Australian market is usually very good after Christmas and in February/ March the domestic New Zealand market has traditionally been very strong.”
All avocados are sold under the Seeka brand.