July 25, 2022
Australia will need to both eat and export more avocados as growers negotiate a predicted soaring growth in production over the next five years, agribusiness bank Rabobank says in a new report.
“Per capita supply” of avocados is estimated to be up 26 per cent this year over the previous 12 months to 4.8kg, ie. 22 avocados for every Australian.
The “Avolanche” report says a significant maturing of avocado trees during the past season – primarily in Western Australia and Queensland – has resulted in a bumper crop, causing a national oversupply.
Retail prices fell to a record low of $1 each in June last year and again early this month; prices for 2022 remain tracking at 47 per cent below the five-year average.
While the low prices have been welcomed by consumers, they have put considerable pressure on grower margins, already squeezed by increasing input costs and labour shortages, says report author Pia Piggott.
“A bumper 2021-22 crop in Western Australia was a turning point,” Ms Piggott said, “with industry estimates of avocado production in the State being up a staggering 265 per cent on the previous year.
WA – along with imports from New Zealand – supplies the majority of Australia’s avocados during spring and summer.
All other Australian avocado-growing regions – except North Queensland, which had a record harvest the previous year – have also seen slight year-on-year increases in production in 2022, the report said.
Overall, Australia’s avocado production for 2021-22 is estimated at 124,000 tonnes.
Coupled with estimated imports of 12,500 tonnes for the year, this has meant abundant supplies for consumers, Ms Piggott said.
The report said the past year’s market oversupply in Australia was “just the beginning” with industry forecasts that domestic avocado production would expand by 40 per cent (or 50,000 tonnes) during the next five years, reaching 173,000 tonnes in 2026.
Ms Piggott said all avocado-growing regions in Australia were expecting production growth.
Regaining balance in Australia’s avocado market would require both “increased domestic demand and larger export volumes”, she said.
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The good news was consumers’ appetite for avocados remained healthy, both in Australia and abroad – with local demand forecast to continue to grow while demand was also expanding in offshore markets, providing Australia’s export sector with a platform for growth, the report said.
In 2021-22, the average volume of avocados consumed by each Australian household increased 31.2 per cent on the previous year. This was despite households spending 29.1 per cent less on avocados due to lower prices.
The number of Australian households buying avocados also rose 6 per cent over the previous 12 months.
However, increasing domestic consumption of avocados would not be enough to use up the “avolanche” of additional local production in coming years so ramping up exports would be critical in ensuring the market finds a better balance to support sustainable prices for growers.
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Ms Piggott said Australian export volumes of avocados rose by more than 350 per cent during the past year.
“The Singapore and Hong Kong markets have been stand-out performers, with Australia growing to account for 46 per cent and 12 per cent market share of their avocado imports, respectively,” Ms Piggott said.
“Malaysia remains an integral export market and has re-bounded from COVID-related impacts, with Australian exports making up 46 per cent of the total imported avocados into Malaysia. Exports to the rest of the world are also up, including to the Middle East and Japan.”
The rise of avocado consumption in Asia presents an ongoing opportunity for exporters but competition is on the rise from other exporters, such as Mexico and South America.
There are also other challenges, including significant trade barriers, with Australia currently having either limited or no access to three of the largest avocado-importing markets in Asia: Japan, China and South Korea.