It’s been a very challenging start to the 2020/21 avocado season. So far mixed maturity levels have caused fruit flow challenges, high value export returns on the horizon and weather that has been better suited to a rain forest.
Despite these issues there has been a huge amount of success. A limited early crop in the Bay of Plenty has been compensated by good volumes from the newer large producing blocks in the Far North and Tapora. It may be a sign of maturity within the industry that growers are making good decisions based on obtaining good values from well considered strategic decisions. Some growers have done very well based off identification of market opportunities and stringent monitoring of maturities. The early domestic market values have been strong and stable and regardless of the export carrot being offered growers have taken some good returns and established early cash. That has to be a good outcome.
Having made the above comments, there are some issues that need debating and I am going to start that debate.
The New Zealand market is the second largest market in terms of volume, and its value over the last four to five years has lifted to a point whereby it is a market that creates value across the supply chain. Why then do we as marketers and growers face challenges getting early season maturity clearances completed? Why does a service that is charged (at very good commercial rates) only have the ability to collect fruit two days per week? Why is there significant extra cost between Mid-North and Far North growing regions? Why does the industry not have a robust, efficient and commercially practical solution that assists trade opportunities instead of slowing them? In the horticulture industry service is a seven day a week activity. Retail, transport, supply sites, marketers, packers, ripeners all are seven days a week activities. Why then would we accept a two day a week service and be charged at higher rates for the privilege?
On the subject of maturity testing I would also challenge the recent article from NZ Avocado regarding the F-751 Avocado Quality Metre units. When testing new equipment, especially new technology, there is a need to engage closely and extensively with the providers / manufacturers. They are the experts in how to use and apply the technology. By working collaboratively with the source supplier any challenges can be addressed, alterations and improvements made, challenges overcome and output and results maximised. Zeafruit has purchased several of the F-751 Avocado Quality Metre units. Our team engage regularly with the USA manufacturers via webinars and we have been provided with extensive training and advice. This has given us massive insight into how best to use, test, calibrate and understand the best conditions and method of testing. Our results are now down within 0.2% variance between effective F-751 unit testing and dehydrator outcomes for the same fruit. The future is not in invasive fruit removal, high costs and prolonged testing. This is a time sensitive industry, especially in the early market when values can be defined by hours and not days.
As we look forward to the next few weeks it is a hard market to gauge. Demand has been steady without being outstanding. Currently values have come off the early highs as industry pack numbers have lifted. At the marketers meeting last week it was noted that we are in the pre-export window and specific or strategic domestic market harvesting is nearing completion. The export flow plan tabled for August does not indicate significant activity across the month of August and based on current forecasting, for Class 2 product we are pitching pricing in the $24.00 to $28.00 CSD value range for next week. We are noting some consumer resistance above a certain retail price point and we need to be mindful of that given that we are in the winter season during uncertain economic conditions.