New Zealand’s avocado industry recorded its highest ever volume and value levels last season as demand for the fruit grows globally, attracting investors to the sector.
Sales of New Zealand avocados reached NZ$198 million (€126.6 million; $145 million) during the 2016-17 season, an increase of NZ$64 million on 2015-16, and NZ$62 million higher than the previous record of NZ$136 million set in 2013-14, according to industry group New Zealand Avocado.
Volume of the fruit was a record 7.7 million trays, an 84 percent increase on the previous season.
“With the huge increase in value from avocados and much higher visibility of the global opportunities, we are seeing strong growth throughout the industry. Demand for new trees has resulted in a near trebling of production at nurseries, large commercial investors in northland are converting dairy farms to avocado orchards and smaller orchards are maximizing the productivity of their orchards. Growers will be very happy with their returns and are looking at further investment. It’s a very exciting time to be in the New Zealand avocado industry,” Ashby Whitehead, chairman of NZ Avocado said in a statement.
As demand for avocados has grown globally, the sector has become a target for investors. Late last year Australian horticultural company Costa Group, part-owned by US private equity firm Paine & Partners, teamed up with Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management to purchase the 300 hectare orchards of Australia’s Avocado Ridge in a $50 million deal.
And earlier this year New Zealand’s Harbour Edge Avocados and Dutch fruit and vegetable company Levarht paid $NZ8 million for a 405 hectare dairy farm, intending to change its use and plant a 100,000 tree avocado orchard which will produce 5,000 tonnes of avocados a year.
Surging demand has pushed New Zealand avocado prices to near-record highs in recent months, with the average price of a 200 gram avocado at NZ$4.52 in June this year, according to government agency Statistics New Zealand.
New Zealand exports 70 percent of its avocado crop, with Australia, South Korea and Japan the country’s primary markets.