Trucks full of avocados left to rot after being dumped in Far North Queensland

Shocking footage has emerged of avocados dumped by truck and left to rot in Far North Queensland, but growers say that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The fruit became a symbol of luxury in 2016 when demographer Bernard Salt suggested young people could have saved up sooner for a house deposit if they had refrained from expensive mashed avocado on toast in cafes.

But now avocados are cheap in the supermarket and wasted on the farm as supply exceeds demand.

FNQ Growers president and Mareeba farmer Joe Moro said letting ripe produce rot is often the most economical decision for farmers for a variety of reasons, including market price, substandard quality and l oversupply.

Jo Moro says the rising cost of fertilizers and chemicals is also a concern for farmers.(Provided: Facebook)

“They grow it to send it to market and want to put the best possible product on the plate and even if the farmer made the business decision to throw the fruit away, it would still be a very emotional decision for them.

Social media users criticize producers

While some social media users were quick to suggest farmers donate the fruit, Moro said even dumping was costly.

“You have to employ people to pick the fruit, drive the trucks over there, dump the product there, so that’s another cost that will be on the farmer,” he said.

Mr Moro said the problem of oversupply comes on top of rising input costs, including fertilizers, chemicals and fuel.

Another Tablelands-based avocado grower, who did not want to be named, told the ABC that he sometimes threw away products because they weren’t up to standard and he didn’t want to poor quality fruit in the market bearing his name.

What is the cause of the overproduction of avocados?

Domestic production has doubled over the past decade as growers have taken advantage of the country’s appetite for the fruit, with between 10-20% of all Australian-grown avocados purchased by the service sector food.

Far North Queensland has traditionally supplied around two-thirds of Australia’s avocados at this time of year, but this season’s harvest has been devastated by carryover fruit from Western Australia, creating a glut in the market for the second consecutive year.

Huge piles of avocados laying in the dirt on a farm in Far North Queensland
An oversupply of avocados means it is now cheaper for farmers to throw them away than to try their luck in the export market.(Provided by: Jan De Lai)

The big jump in production in 2021 was largely due to good seasonal conditions in Western Australia and a delayed harvest, forcing competition into markets that would typically be left to Queensland growers.

Avocados Australia chairman Jim Kochi said the amount of produce entering the market from North Queensland was high because trees that had been planted over the past five years were now bearing fruit.

“But there’s been a lot of market disruption by flooding in Sydney, flooding in Queensland, but other than that I really don’t understand why more avocados aren’t being eaten and consumed because the price is also lower than it was 20 years ago.

Mr Kochi said dumping the fruit was a last resort for growers, who barely covered production costs.

“There is a high supply, you could even say an oversupply, even of the higher quality fruit and that brings the price down and the value of the second quality fruit does not have it now, so it is not worth the cost to put it in a box, pay for the packaging and the extra freight,” he said.

Consumer Support Planting

The establishment of new orchards means that production will continue to increase for years to come, which is expected to increase pressure on the domestic market, making the export of fruit essential to building a sustainable model that gives confidence to producers.

As a result, the peak body has placed increased urgency on forging new export markets, especially Japan.

Australia also imports avocados from New Zealand under a free trade agreement, dividing up the market from around August to February.

A man stands in front of a dark green bush
Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas said the industry was struggling to cope with oversupply.(Kim Honan)

Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas said the cutting-edge body had been actively trying to open up and develop new export markets long before this curve.

But with domestic avocado production reaching 90,000 tonnes in 2021, it had been unable to stay ahead of the industry’s oversupply.

The main hurdle Queensland avocado growers faced in accessing the Japanese market was its strict biosecurity protocols, especially regarding the Queensland fruit fly.

“It is progressing, and our Australian government has made proposals to Japan and we are awaiting comments.”

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