New Zealand grower and produce company, Seeka, is two weeks into its New Zealand avocado export season. The company intends to export to Australia, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and possibly China this season with high demand for its quality fruit.
“Although we started the main export season 2 weeks ago, we have been packing avocados for the domestic market all year which is a first for Seeka as we move to deliver our premium brand to our customers all year round and deliver our growers better returns,” explains Chief Executive Michael Franks. “We have encouraged our growers to hold on longer so we can deliver our key domestic customers out of season fruit supply.”
While the New Zealand Industry has focused and developed markets in Asia, Australia remains the key export market. Demand from Australia is strong this year as domestic volumes are significantly down particularly in Western Australia. Australian market trends are dynamic with food service and wholesale markets understandably weaker, and retail programs stronger. COVID has meant that suppliers have had to be nimble to enable their retail customers supply certainty. Seeka remains focused on developing new market opportunities in Asia.
“It makes for an interesting dynamic, demand and prices for good quality fruit are strong. The food service sector continues to be affected by COVID and the demand has shifted more to retail. The Asian markets on the other hand are still well supplied with lower price and lower quality avocados from Mexico and Peru.”
Seeka expects to pack 900,000 trays this season of its own and its growers fruit which is a record for the company. “The crop is looking very good although the sizing is little small, reflecting dry growing conditions through the summer. We have increased our volumes in proportion to market demand, we could secure more volumes but have been careful to regulate our volume growth to market demand – so as to optimise the returns to the premium growers that supply us. Seeka has a reputation for producing the highest quality avocados and all of the fruit sold or handled by Seeka is marketed under the Seeka brand.”
Labour has been a significant challenge in New Zealand. At the moment there is not a lot of packing activity but the work is still intensively underway in the kiwifruit orchards with winter pruning. The New Zealand horticulture industry is dependent on overseas workers secured through the RSE program and there has been huge disruption with border closures, and irregular repatriation departures with Pacific Island workers going home. Seeka has worked with the Apple Industry in New Zealand to optimise the employment of displaced workers while at the same time getting the job done for Seeka.
Although New Zealand had been COVID free of community transmission for over three months, new cases have been found in Auckland in recent weeks which has led to the wider Auckland area going back into stage three lock down and the rest of New Zealand to level two. Michael, considers that the government is making good progress, and hopes that things will calm down again soon.