Australians are being encouraged to eat – or export – more avocados as the country’s growers are predicted to enter an era of soaring production during the next five years,.
A report by Rabobank, The ‘Avo-lanche’ of Australian Avocados, is the agribusiness bank’s outlook for the industry. It records a significant spike in mature avocado trees in the past season – primarily in Western Australia and Queensland – which has resulted in a bumper crop and caused a national oversupply.
Retail prices fell to a record low of $1 each in June last year and again early this month. Furthermore, retail prices for this year remain around 47 per cent below the five-year average.
This year alone, the “‘per capita (person) supply” of avocados is estimated to be up 26 per cent on the previous 12 months to 4.8kg – equal to 22 avocados for every Australian.
“While the low prices have been welcomed by consumers currently facing significant price rises for many other food items and household staples, they have put considerable pressure on grower margins, already squeezed by increasing input costs and labour shortages,” says the report author, Rabo Research associate analyst Pia Piggott.
The report also stated that the country’s avocado market is “cycling through a period of significant production growth,” explained Piggott.
“A bumper 2021-2022 crop in Western Australia was a turning point, with industry estimates of avocado production in the state being up a staggering 265 per cent on the previous year.”
According to Piggott, this was driven by a 21 per cent increase in the number of hectares of avocado trees in WA that reached maturity and produced fruit, coupled with optimal growing conditions in the area.
The total avocado production for 2021-2022 is estimated at 124,000 tonnes, with estimated imports of a further 12,500 tonnes, providing abundant supplies for consumers.
She added that last year’s oversupply was “just the beginning”, and the industry forecasts that domestic avocado production will increase by 40 per cent in the next five years, reaching 173,000 tonnes by 2026.
“Regaining balance in Australia’s avocado market requires both increased domestic demand and larger export volumes,” remarked Piggot.
The report also revealed that Aussies are eating more avocados, with the percentage of households purchasing the fruit up by 6 per cent during the past year.
However, it also suggested that increased consumption of avocados is not enough to consume the “avolanche” of local production, and ramping up exports will be critical to ensure balance and support sustainable prices for growers.
“While exporting provides the greatest opportunity for Australia’s avocado industry to attract a good price and improve revenue, ensuring high export quality is paramount to maintaining the reputation and premium of the fruit, and continued investment in improving export access remains a key priority for the Australian avocado industry,” Piggot concluded.