A BUMPER crop of avocados is forecast for Far North Queensland growers, with the peak industry body claiming it could their the best season yet.
Growers in the Mareeba, Dimbulah and Atherton Tablelands areas are preparing to harvest their crop, with an abundance of the fruit expected from new trees baring fruit for the first time.
And the timing couldn’t be better for both growers and consumers, after the Western Australia and New Zealand seasons finished in mid-January during a period of peak demand, which lead to an avocado shortage and high prices throughout the country.
Alan Poggioli of Golden Triangle Avocados at Tolga said he was anticipating their best season yet, with new trees coming into production this year.
Mr Poggioli said he had about 1000 shepherd avocado trees and 11,000 Hass on his property.
“We’ve got trees here some are 40 years old as they were planted in ‘78 and some that are two years old,” he said.
“We’ve been in avocados for about 20 years and we are slowly expanding them.
“We’ve got a nice crop on, a really nice crop of fruit and it’s all looking really good at the moment.
“It will be one of our best yet, not withstanding cyclones it’s been a really good season. the weather has been kind, with some nice early rains but no vicious storms.”
Mr Poggioli said they were in the process of installing a new packing machine to “keep ahead of the times” and said they would start picking in about a month.
He said he expected to yield between 300,000-400,000 trays, which would be their highest yeild yet.
Last year they packed about 280,000-290,000 trays.
Their fruit is supplied to Woolworths, Coles and Aldi and to markets in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide late in the season.
Atherton grower and Avocados Australia chairman Jim Kochi said avocado production in Australia had more than doubled in the last five years, from about 1.2 million trays to an expected 3 million trays this year.
“In the last five years there’s been some large expansions in plantings from new growers exiting other industries and growing avocados and the more traditional growers who have increased plantings as well,” Mr Kochi said.
”While some areas still have patchy crops generally across the board crops are good particularly in the Mareeba, Dimbulah and Atherton areas.”
Mr Kochi said with WA and NZ seasons ending, North Queensland crops were starting to be picked in the last two to three weeks.
He said Sheperds would come off first on the Atherton Tablelands and would continue until the end of March, before the Hass variety reaches maturity, with that harvest forecast to go until the end of June.
“There will be similar increases in the crops from Central Queensland around the Bundaberg area,” Mr Kochi said.
He said prices would ease for consumers, as more fruit became available following the tradition gap on the market between mid-January and mid-February.
“We’re filling the gap, but that’s always the low point of supply on the Australian market, we’ve only dropped by about 30 per cent production but it seemed to have coincided with an increase in demand,” Mr Kochi said.
There are about 100 growers in Far North, predominantly in Tablelands area and the industry is worth about $100 million to the local economy.
”Prices have already started to ease off a bit as more volume comes to the market, we hope it doesn’t ease off too much and the farmers get some good prices,” Mr Kochi said.
”We will get a better yield than last year, on average some are a bit lighter, but certainly yields are better than last year and quality is very good because it has been such a dry year.”
He said Australia’s 1000 avocado growers collectively paid levies of about $15 million annually, more than any other horticultural industry, which was spent predominantly on marketing the product, which had driven demand for the fruit.
“Avocado producers levy themselves higher that another other horticulture producers, we invest in our own success we’re really happy that growers are reaping the rewards for that.”