Smash an avo at home to keep growers in business

Smash an avo at home to keep growers in business

Horticulture
ANY WHICH WAY: Slice it, dice it, mash it, smash it . . . the great Australian avo on toast meal is still a possibility in lockdown. PHOTO: Australian Avocados.

ANY WHICH WAY: Slice it, dice it, mash it, smash it . . . the great Australian avo on toast meal is still a possibility in lockdown. PHOTO: Australian Avocados.

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Cafe closures wipe out a big market for avocado growers.

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WITH the closure of restaurants and cafes wiping out a significant market for the avocado business, growers have taken the bull by the horns and launched a campaign urging people to smash their avos at home.

Australians are having to do without many things they once took for granted as the virus crisis plays out, but smashed avo on toast - iconic Australian fare - isn't one.

"Smash it, mash it, slice it, dice it - just don't go without it," says Far North Queensland grower and Avocados Australia chairman Jim Kochi.

Growers are currently collating videos of their families whipping up recipes - they are the avo experts after all - which will be rolled out widely on social media and further afield.

Up to 20 per cent of Australia's avocado production, which last financial year added up to 85,500 tonnes and is on track to be a similar volume this year, goes to the food service game.

It is typically the fruit with some skin blemish but perfect flesh that goes this way.

"There is some avocado being sold into takeaway dishes but it's far smaller volumes and having that market effectively closed has had a real impact," Avocados Australia chief executive officer John Tyas said.

"One option growers have is to leave fruit on the tree a bit longer but at the end of the day, that fruit will have to go somewhere or it will end up on the ground."

At the same time, the grounding of planes has halted avocado exports, a market which is expected to be on an exponential growth curve in coming years due to new plantings.

While less than five per cent of production was exported last financial year, it was a 30pc lift on the previous year.

Our avocados go mainly to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore but last year Australia gained access to Japan for Western Australian product, which is expected to offer big opportunity.

Mr Tyas said he was hopeful the recently-announced federal government package to assist exporters with airfreight would see volumes of avocados going overseas ramp up again in the next month.

The supply of premium grade fruit, mostly Shepards, is currently more than enough to meet retail demand on the retail shelves at the moment.

As a result, growers estimate farmgate prices have dropped by as much as 20pc.

Hass variety avos are about to start hitting the market, the first coming from the Atherton Tablelands and Central Queensland.

"We have seen a drop in consumption in recent weeks as consumers focus on the food basics and items they can store for a period," Mr Tyas said.

National Australia Bank's latest commodities wrap says avocados is one of few exceptions across fruit and vegetables where demand is not very healthy at the moment.

Fruit and vegetable prices are climbing, up 9.9 and 20.8 per cent respectively.

Fresh produce continues to be available in shops, although the sector faces among the biggest risks from coronavirus for any agricultural sector, NAB agribusiness economist Phin Ziebell said.

"Labour availability is likely to be a key issue, with many backpackers repatriating and Covid-19 outbreaks in packing sheds a major risk," he said.

Flexible harvest

Atherton Tablelands avocado grower Jim Kochi is about to starting harvesting his Hass variety fruit this week and is expecting a lighter-than-typical crop.

A frost in September took a toll on fruit set and production on his 80 hectare plantation could be back by 25 to 30 per cent.

HARVEST TIME: Atherton Tablelands avocado grower Jim Kochi.

HARVEST TIME: Atherton Tablelands avocado grower Jim Kochi.

Given the heavy supply of avocados at a retail level at the moment with other markets out of the mix, it's not a bad thing, he believes.

Mr Koshi said it was critical right that harvest decisions be made in close consultation with wholesalers.

"Growers need to engage with the other end of the supply chain to harvest according to needs," Mr Kochi said.

"We are fortunate to have a crop which provides a way to stretch out harvest to fit markets.

"Growers can size pick - get the bigger fruit off first. We always say the best place to store avos is on the tree.

"Our focus has to be to get fruit to the consumer as fresh as we can every time."

Last year, avocado consumption reached 3.8 kilograms per person for the year, which places Australia higher than any other English-speaking country.

Queensland produces the majority of Australia's avocados, accounting for 55pc, with WA growers producing 30pc, followed by NSW and South Australia.

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