Australian avocado farmers are dumping their lower-grade fruit after a record harvest and plummeting demand caused prices to fall off a cliff.
Producers had ramped up plantings to meet surging demand before the pandemic, but were left with too many avocados when cafes closed during lockdowns and surging shipping costs cut off key export markets.
As a result, prices have halved from about $3 per avocado last year to about $1.50 today.
“It’s great news for consumers, but not so good for growers,” Avocados Australia CEO John Tyas told The New Daily.
“We’ve had really strong demand for avocados in Australia for many years.
“So what’s happened is that with this increased demand, all around the country there’s been increased plantings to meet that demand.”
Orchards that were established years ago when demand was high are now coming into production when demand is low.
Ideal weather conditions also led to a bumper crop.
And just as the supply increased nationally, cafes in Melbourne and Sydney stopped buying avocados after they were forced to close during lockdowns.
This had a major effect, as the hospitality industry previously accounted for a fifth of Australia’s avocado sales.
The pandemic also cut off growers from major export markets, which only added to the surplus of fruit in Australia.
In 2020, air freight to Singapore and Malaysia – previously the two biggest export markets for Australian avocados – became prohibitively expensive.
Now the industry is slowly pivoting to sea freight, as well as exploring new export opportunities in countries like Japan.
Bargains for consumers
According to data from grocery price comparison app Frugl, the price of Hass and Shepard avocados hovered around $2.50 to $3 each for most of 2020.
Now they’re selling for between $1.20 and $1.50 each at major supermarkets, and for even less when sold in bunches.
Many cafes in Melbourne and Sydney stopped buying avocados when the cities went into lockdown. Photo: Getty
According to the industry’s data, domestic consumption has more than doubled over the past decade, and Mr Tyas hopes some of the customers lured in at the current price point will stay around when prices eventually rise.
He expects prices to remain relatively low into the new year, until wholesale and international demand bounces back.
“We’re expecting production to more than double in the next five years,” he said.
“So there’s more to come.”