First Chilean avocados arrive in Australia

Well, as Avocados Australia accepted as a possibility in several media interviews last week, it seems the first Chilean avocados have landed on our shores.

Avocados Australia understands an importer has landed its first shipment of Chilean avocados in Queensland this week.

Avocados Australia CEO John Tyas says the imported fruit will still need to be of high-quality and in good condition for it to be attractive to Australian consumers.

Mr Tyas was interviewed by ABC Country Hour reporters from Western Australia and Victoria last week, after they saw speculation about interest from importers on social media.

“The Australian Government determined the import conditions earlier this year for fresh avocados from Chile. So (Chilean avocados) are now legally able to be imported into Australia, as long as they meet our strict quarantine requirements,” Mr Tyas said in the interview (13.05 mark).

As noted in last week’s media interviews, Mr Tyas said he expected some importers would look to capitalise on the opportunity presented in the Australian market this year.

“This year Australia supply is down a bit, so prices in Australia are likely to be very attractive later this year. I think the costs and logistics to get avocados onto Australian shelves in peak condition shouldn’t be underestimated.”

When questioned by ABC journalist Angus Verley last week (week of 24 August 2020) about reports up to five importers were looking to bring in Chilean avocados, Mr Tyas said he had heard rumours. It was not until this week that any sort of confirmation of imports came to light.

“New Zealand is the only other country that supplies our market and traditionally, New Zealand has played an important role in supplementing our market through the summer months when we weren’t able to meet the high domestic demand.

“There’s been a lot of expansion in south-west Western Australia and other parts of southern Australia that can produce avocados in that spring and summer period now, and we’ve seen supply in that period increase. I think in time, the need for any imported product to supplement our market across the year will certainly diminish.”

Mr Tyas said the potential shortfall in the summer of 2020/21 was the result of some cold conditions at flowering and fruitset in Western Australia last year, followed by storms in 2020 that knocked some fruit around.

“It is a bit unusual. There’s still going to be pretty good volumes out of Western Australia, but just much less than what they were originally hoping for this year,” he said.

Asked if Chile would be able to compete on price in the Australian domestic market, Mr Tyas said he expected prices would push up, based on supply and demand but that he didn’t have a “crystal ball”.

“It’s not just the cost of supplying the product from Chile, it’s also the logistics. The last investigation that we had done indicated there were fairly limited shipping routes and they need to go via New Zealand and be trans-shipped through New Zealand, and then you obviously have the border clearance.

“This product is going to be pretty old by the time it gets onto a retail shelf. It will come down to consumers as to whether they think that’s good value or not.”

Promotion of Australian Avocados to continue
In Australia, promotion for the domestic product will continue. The consumer-facing marketing, funded by grower levies and managed by Hort Innovation, continues under the Australian Avocados brand.

You can read more about the activities of Australian Avocados in this blog, in each edition of Talking Avocados, as well as in the Guacamole and Infocado.

“In 2018/19, Australian growers contributed $4 million via the marketing levy, to Hort Innovation, for the Australian Avocados activities,” Mr Tyas said.

“This commitment from growers to the marketing levy – which is largely focused on the domestic market but also now includes work in our growing export markets – is significant.”

In the latest report from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) from May 2020, for the 2018/19 financial year, the avocado industry contributed $6.8 million in levies, between the R&D and marketing levies. The industry fund report from Hort Innovation shows of this, $4 million was for marketing, and $2.66 million for R&D. (The Australian Government provides an additional contribution toward the R&D activities only; in 2018/19 this was $1.6 million.)

Within horticulture, avocados are the third-highest levy payers, after bananas ($11.33 million in 2018/19) and vegetables ($10.2 million). The top 10 is rounded out by mushrooms, macadamias, apples, citrus, nursery products, almonds and table grapes.

In terms of all of the levy-paying agricultural industries or industry segments, avocados are actually in the top 20: cattle transaction ($78 million), wool, wheat, lamb transaction, dairy produce, coarse grains, sugar cane, pig slaughter, oilseeds, beef production, wine grapes, bananas, grain legumes, vegetables, cotton, avocados, egg promotion, mushrooms, forest products, macadamia nuts ($4.4 million).

You can find the DAWE levy reports here.

This article was produced for the Guacamole of 4 September 2020.


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