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Avocado prices are soaring this summer due to short supply and high demand, and an industry group says shoppers may face similar pricing for a while.
New Zealand Avocado Growers' Association chief executive Jen Scoular said the 2011/2012 crop was the biggest ever, at six million trays.
But bumper seasons are usually followed by smaller harvests, she said, and the latest crop had come in at only three million trays.
"This year there's a shortage of supply and an increased demand for avocados, which in a market economy means the price goes up," said Scoular.
She said the industry had been doing a lot of marketing, raising awareness of the fruit's health benefits, which was driving demand from consumers.
According to Statistics New Zealand's Food Price Index, avocado prices rose 86 per cent between January 2012 and the same month this year, contributing to a 5.9 per cent overall price increase for fruit and vegetables during that period.
Avocados were selling for $2.49 each at Countdown's Newmarket store at the weekend and $2.99 at the New World Metro store on Queen St on Tuesday.
Asked whether consumers could expect cheaper avocados next summer, Scoular said the association's strategy was to position the fruit as a high value product, rather than a commodity.
"We would like to see the return to the grower maintained, which means we do suggest that the retail pricing might hold next year similar to where it is now."
Antoinette Shallue, spokeswoman for supermarket operator Foodstuffs, said the "firmer" avocado prices this summer were not unexpected and reflected supply and demand.
"We are constantly advocating for better value for our customers and continue to work with our suppliers to provide the best possible prices," Shallue said.
Australian avocado prices are reportedly 130 per cent up on last summer and retailing for as much as A$5 each, despite a very large crop.
"Demand is certainly outstripping supply at the moment," Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas told the Australian Financial Review last week. "During the summer, only the southern states are the major suppliers of avocados and they produce a bit less."
Scoular said 60 per cent of New Zealand's avocado crop, grown largely in the Bay of Plenty, was now exported.
Australia had been the largest overseas market for more than a decade, but exports to Japan had tripled over the past two years and new markets were being developed in other Asian countries, she said.
The New Zealand industry is made up of 1600 growers who collectively manage more than 5000 hectares planted mainly with the Hass variety of avocados, according to the Growers' Association.
- By Christopher Adams of the New Zealand Herald