Coronavirus restrictions a concern for SA avocado growers

Avocado July 16, 2020

Waikerie-based producer Justin Loffler said holding off to pick their fruit would turn into a real gamble, as growers in the Riverland already battled with significant crop losses this year.

Normally starting to harvest their Hass variety in August, Mr Loffler said marketers had advised not to hurry produce onto the market as return prices could potentially improve between September and November as other states finished their harvest.

However, this year's production forecast for the Riverland and Sunraysia is already down by 75 per cent due to severe frost events killing flower buds.

"Last season our forecast was around 800,000 trays; this season our forecast is around 200,000 trays," Mr Loffler said.

"We are trying to maximise our return, so if we can get better money we will hold it on the trees a bit longer. "But I guess the $20 billion question is what's going to happen with the interruptions into the market?"

He said seeing a second wave of coronavirus cases across the country and tougher restrictions reinstated added a level of uncertainty and anxiety for growers.

"When the first coronavirus wave hit and everything was closed down, that caused massive disruptions in the market.

"Particularly for crates of fruits that were going into restaurants and into food service areas, as a lot of those businesses were shut down, the markets for those kinds of fruits dried up."

Threat of unpredictable weather
While further trade disruptions are one uncertainty, unpredictable weather conditions are another concern for farmers when committing to delay their harvest.

Mr Loeffler said severe frost events and the region being prone to windstorms in September could lead to more fruit losses when leaving the crops on trees for longer.

"I think most of us like to at least get some of it off in a reasonable timeframe without having all our crop and all our income for the season still sitting out there on the trees."

"It becomes a juggling act: Do I risk holding off and waiting and seeing what comes in the hope of getting a higher price or do I sell earlier and put that money in my bank account?"

"It just adds that extra level of uncertainty and anxiety to people, and as growers it's our livelihood and returns."

Source: ABC Rural

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