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Holy Guacamole! Avocado Industry Looks Good

Food and Fibre Minister John Luxton speaking to the NZ Avocado Growers Annual Conference in Kaitaia today, commended the industry's tremendous export success and paid tribute to their initiative in capitalising on the knowledge economy.

"In 1990 total avocado exports by volume were 738,000kg, while in 1999 total avocado exports by volume are expected to be 5.1 million kgs. That's a staggering 590% increase. This year New Zealand's total avocado crop is expected to top 1 million trays. And avocado exports are estimated to earn the country $19.2 million. These are tremendous achievements."

"The ability to grow good quality fruit at the climactic margin and the relative freedom from disease, has allowed the avocado industry to capitalise on its strengths to supply overseas markets throughout the year."

The avocado industry is expanding rapidly with a fast increase in plantings and sales on the export and domestic markets, as well as a 33% increase in export growers from the 1997/98 season to the 1998/99 season.

"The New Zealand avocado industry is now supplying avocados when Australian fruit is unavailable. About 800,000 trays were sent there last year. The Californian market is also expanding. Last year they bought about 40,000 trays and this year the plan is to send 350,000 - 400,000 trays. The ability to compliment Chilean avocados with large sized, good quality fruit is another exciting market opportunity."

Mr Luxton also praised the avocado industry for their investment in research and development saying it was a good example of the way the knowledge was adding value to the primary sector. In 1999/2000 the avocado industry will spend over $400,000 on R & D.

"The work the industry is doing with HortResearch on orchard management, pest and disease control, right through to post-harvest storage and quality shows the application of scientific research in the knowledge economy."

Hot water treatments for the disinfestation of insects developed by HortResearch which have virtually eliminated the need for fumigation, have helped make large scale avocado export possible.

A new non-chemical post harvest treatment is also being developed to remove insects from avocados prior to packing. And natural systems scientists have been trialing disease suppression mulches and composts to combat Phytophthora root rot.

"Export markets and consumers are becoming increasingly discriminating so I commend the avocado industry for taking the bull by the horns and exploring ways to reduce unnecessary chemical use," Mr Luxton concluded.


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