Article by: Hari Yellina
Avocado growers in far north Queensland are being forced to abandon their crop because supply exceeds demand. Avocados discarded at the Atherton GreenWaste facility were photographed and shared online earlier this month. Angela Nason, the founder of Tablelands to Tabletop, claimed the prices were the best she’d ever seen. “We regularly transfer many tonnes of my family’s avocados here at T2T,” she explained, “but we’ve struggled to move only a few tonnes.” “This is what our Far North Queensland avocado growers and other avocado producers across Australia have endured this year.” Tablelands to Tabletop is a commercial delivery service that sources 100% local, in-season, second-grade and exceptional fruit and vegetables from local farms to sell to consumers directly.
Ms Nason stated that big stores had stocked shelves with avocados imported from New Zealand. “With the number of avocados that Australian avocado growers grow, this is totally unnecessary,” she added. Ms Nason was unaware of the farmer who abandoned the produce or the cause for it, but she did say that local farms experienced similar situations. “The answer from their agents down south, where they generally deliver their fruit, has been that the large giants have imported avocados from New Zealand,” she added. “Of course, that is not the sole cause for dumping; oversupply is another factor.” “There are times when there are simply too many avocados to sell.”
Another cause, according to Ms Nason, is the categorisation of produce. “They could have been second-grade avocados,” she speculated. “Most growers were hardly moving the premium, so their second-grade produce had a chance to be seen. “Because major stores will only take the premium, the second grade will mainly end up at cafés or restaurants. “It’s just the skin, as we all know. What’s below is the exact same thing.” The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects had a cascade effect. “The closing of cafes and restaurants as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown had a domino effect on our farmers,” Ms Nason added.
“Smashed avocado on toast is one of the most popular items at cafes and restaurants, so if people aren’t ordering it because the establishment is closed, it’ll have an impact on the farmer. “A variety of fruits and vegetables, not only avocados.” According to John Tyas, CEO of Avocados Australia, the overall avocado sector suffered during the pandemic. “A significant portion of our avocados are sold to the food service industry, and when restaurants and cafes were forced to close for extended periods of time during the lockdown, it created a lot of problems,” he explained. “We also have trouble finding labour because a lot of our workers are often backpackers who come into the country and work hard.
“As a result, there has been a severe labour shortage. Fuel price hikes have also been difficult.” The Australian export market, according to Mr Tyas, was also impacted. “The other issue we faced was for our exporters who were seeking to build our avocado export trade, which was severely affected by covid,” he explained. “We clearly didn’t have a lot of air freight flights, and we were also having trouble finding shipping containers to transport the product. “There have been numerous causes that have influenced the industry. “Everyone is looking forward to getting through this and returning to a sense of normalcy and stability.” According to Mr. Tyas, the industry should expect significant levels of production in the future.
Ms Nason expressed her desire to continue delivering local industry perspective. “Not everyone knows the scenario or grower problems since they are not in the farming industry,” she said. “It’s not good for the farmer, but that avocado post went viral, and one good thing that came out of it was the very clear message to support locals first.” “No wasted produce is exactly what we’re attempting to achieve here.” “We strive to educate our community to support local businesses, and if consumers see anything from another country on the shelves of a major retailer, just leave it there.” “The number one thing you can do to help the issue is to never buy produce from other countries.” What was the bottom line, Ms Nason? Avocados cultivated in Australia are best. “You make the decision if you tell the stores with your pockets,” she explained. “At the end of the day, the consumer will decide what is acceptable and what is not allowed.”