Avocado harvest begins in Bundaberg Region

Avocado harvest begins
They’re back! Fresh fruit and vegetable guru Jimmy Liolios from Learmonth’s Supermarket with the new-season Shepard avocados from Simpson Farms in Childers.

The avocado harvest has just begun in the Bundaberg Region.

Aussies love their “avos” and figures last year showed that Australians consume about 3.5kg per person.

According to Avocados Australia, the fruit arrived in Australia in 1840 in seed form, and these were planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney.

Commercial imports of seed and plants continued over the next 110 years until by the late 1960s when a developing Australian industry began to take shape.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima.

Currently avocado orchards are found in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Avocados are a perennial fruit and Australian premium produce is available all-year round because of the widespread and climatically diverse growing regions. The highest volume of fruit is available between March and November.

The early-ripening Shepard variety is the first fruit off the tree.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said the Bundaberg Region is part of the Central Queensland production area which boasts more than 2400 hectares under avocado trees.

“This is the single largest growing region in Australia by area with 65 per cent of that area containing trees that are six years or older and producing fruit,” she said.

“Hass is the major variety of avocado produced contributing 74 per cent of the harvest with Shepard contributing 15 per cent and other varieties making up the remaining 11 per cent.”

Bree said Shepard avocados had an eight-week harvest period from March through April and the current harvest was exhibiting early signs of producing a good crop.

“Hass varieties will then take over, with harvesting from April to August,” she said.

“The Shepard avocado is grown predominately in two locations in the world; North Queensland and Central Queensland.

avocado harvest
Hass avocados ripening in the Bundaberg Region.

“Its smooth glossy skin always stays green even when ripe. All harvesting in the region is done manually and varieties need to be harvested differently.

“While the Hass variety can be snapped off the tree the Shepard need to be snipped off, leaving a segment of stem on the fruit.

“Up until now avocados in store have originated from Western Australia and New Zealand, which is reflected in their higher prices.

“With local fruit now coming into production, prices will tend to be high early in the new season and taper off as production increases.”

Deputy Mayor Cr Bill Trevor said harvesting of avocados is labour intensive and the local workforce is supplemented to a large degree by backpacker labour.

“To have seasonal employment opportunities for backpackers really does provide a welcome boost to the local economy,” he said.

Cr Trevor said there was unmet demand for Australian avocados on the world market.

“In terms of production, both domestically and internationally, Australia is considered a small producer on the world avocado market,” he said.

“Australia exports less than 5 per cent of avocado production, with Malaysia and Singapore the main export markets, so there is plenty of room for expansion.

“Bundaberg Region is a prime location for production and we can expect to see increased plantings in the coming years.”

Hass and Shepard avocado varieties
Hass and Shepard avocado varieties: What's the difference? Source: Avocados Australia