Growing Futures

Increasing access for avocados

Increasing access for avocados

Removing surface pests is important for growing the export markets of New Zealand avocados

New Zealand’s fruit industries have set ambitious export targets as part of the New Zealand Government’s Business Growth Agenda. The development of new high-value markets, particularly in Asia, is a key avenue for achieving these goals.

The avocado industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest horticultural export industry, earning $115 million in exports in 2014/15. Australia is the dominant market. However, in 2013, the industry entered into a Primary Growth Partnership that included the development of multiple export markets as a key objective.

Expanding export markets for New Zealand avocados, particularly in emerging Asian countries, requires meeting strict phytosanitary and quality standards. The presence of pests and undesirable organic matter on exported fruit can mean quarantine and cosmetic problems that negatively affect market access, profitability and reputation.

A consignment that fails its inspection may be fumigated or redirected to another location (either of which can compromise fruit quality) or sold on the New Zealand domestic market, thereby reducing the financial return to the grower.

While high-pressure water (HPW) treatments can effectively remove unwanted pests and matter on many fruits, the system traditionally used did not adequately clean avocados to a standard for uninhibited access to sensitive markets.

With funding from the Technology for Business Growth Programme, Plant & Food Research utilised past experience in developing HPW systems to inform the design and development of a commercialised three-nozzle HPW system for targeting and cleaning individual avocados on a singulator.

The system displayed remarkable efficacy for cleaning the fruit, removing up to 100% of some surface pests and approximately 98% of pests of quarantine concern. However, achieving reliable cleaning was difficult with this system. To address this, a rotary HPW was designed, which has subsequently been purchased by Compac®.

The New Zealand avocado industry has voluntarily adopted the use of HPW treatments for exported fruit since 2012. Since then there have been no interceptions of pests of quarantine concern to the United States, and in 2014/15 more than 750 lots of avocado were inspected by Australian officials, of which 98.3% were found to be free from quarantine pests. These results underscore industry confidence, and improve the prospects for accessing new markets.

The development of high-pressure avocado washers has been funded by the New Zealand Government’s Technology for Business Growth Programme, in partnership with industry, with investment for the commercialisation of models by Fruit Sorting Systems and Compac®.

Created: September 2016

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