Growing Futures

Maintaining access for avocados

Maintaining access for avocados

Science ensured access to the USA market remained open for New Zealand avocados after biosecurity alert

Exports from the New Zealand avocado industry are primarily shipped to Australia. The industry has a short-term goal of trading at least 25% of fruit outside this market, with a total industry value of $200 million by 2016. The USA is a key market for meeting these growth targets, and currently receives 4% of New Zealand avocado exports, around 142,000 trays of fruit each year.

Responding to biosecurity alert

In October 2011, the US Department of Agriculture held a consignment of New Zealand avocados suspected to be contaminated with the fungal pathogen that causes avocado scab. This decision was reversed within five days, based on data and diagnostic tests provided by Plant & Food Research and the consignment was released onto the US market.

Disease identification

Scientists had previously developed DNA diagnostic tests in response to a similar biosecurity issue in 2006, when the Australian market placed restrictions on the import of New Zealand avocados. These species-specific tests were developed to demonstrate that the pathogen was not present in New Zealand and to ensure against potential allegations of the presence of the avocado scab pathogen in future export shipments.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries were supplied with the diagnostic tests, as well as high quality images of the avocado scab disease, and the absence of the disease was accurately demonstrated in the US shipment. Consequently, the USDA revised their decision and released the shipment, preserving access to the US market.

The development of the avocado scab diagnostic test was funded by the Avocado Industry Council. Avocado pathology research is funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Avocado Industry Council, the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) programme and Plant & Food Research Core Funding.

Created: September 2012

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