Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
West Australian avocado producers haverejected the claim that theyplayed the market before Christmas, leading to a national shortage,with one major player saying she issending out similar volumes each week.
Earlier,former Avocados Australia chief executive Antony Allen claimed the shortage was causedpartlyby West Australian producers who shifted more fruit and artificially lowered prices before Christmas to boost sales, fearing demand would drop in January.
The shortage has also been caused by rainfall and bushfires.But demand has continued to be strong, pushing up prices to $4 per fruit in supermarkets, and $7 at smaller retailers.
Jennie Franceschi,an avocado packer and marketer who controls a third of Western Australia’s avocado production, said she was placing similar volumes in the market every week – except for new year’s week and when it has rained.
“Growers are on a program from the beginning to the end of the season. So they look at their crop volumes, look at their season and work out how many bins a day they have to harvest to be out of the market by the end of their season,” she said.
“More volumes came from WA in the August to December period as [the Delroy]operation packs the fruit from the very large orchards in Busselton.
“That operation always starts in August and tries to be out by Christmas as that is the season for that fruit … as it matures earlier.”
She also rejected the claim thatWest Australian producers artificially pushed down the market priceof a 5.5-kilogram tray to $45beforeChristmas to encourage sales.
“No, prices were not pushed down, prices remained the same.”
Instead, she accused Mr Allen, also theoperatorof grower-owned avocado marketing firmThe Avolution, ofattempting to force the market price higher in the belief that consumers were willing to pay.
“Unlike Mr Allen I have very reasonable volumes to sell and in the 30 years I have been selling fruit I never have and never will price gouge on Christmas week,” she said.
“Whatever the market is the week before Christmas is the price I quote Christmas week,” she said.
“I do not believe that it is the socially responsible thing to do to hit up Australian families at times of high expenditure because we can.”
In response, Mr Allen, whose Avolution businessis based in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, said the market should determine the price and it was his job to ensure growers received a fair amount.
“I did not realise that avocado packing sheds were now responsible for socialist programs determining avocado prices.I was under the misconception that in Australia it was the market place that set prices,” he saidsarcastically.
“I never tell the market what they have to pay, as the market always determines price. My question is, ‘What can you pay?’and then that is the price setting from the market,” said Mr Allen who is also the president of the International Avocado Society.
In the midst of the shortage, the wholesaleprice of an avocado tray has doubled to $80, with one vendorsaying hehadseen a tray being sold for up to $120.
Despite high retail prices, some shops are enforcing purchase limits. The Gabba Fruit Market in Woolloongabba in Brisbane has imposed a limit of six avocados per person at $5.49 each.
Australia also relies on New Zealand imports, but the rain there has added to this year’s supply woes because harvesting in wet weather ruins the fruit.
Industry players believe the supply issues will ease about March, as fruit from Queensland enters the supply chain.
“I do not expect the supply situation to resolve itself until after theQueenslandseason gets underway and their volumes increase,”MsFranceschisaid.
“They have to wait until fruit matures, which traditionally is around the first week in March.
“By the time they wind up, pack transport and ripen fruit, I think it will be mid to late March.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.