Water, agriculture & avocados
Cummings Economics: Behind Cairns’ Success – Strong Hinterland Progress
Growers in far north Queensland are adapting to changes in climate and consumer trends in many different ways. The threat of drought and reduced irrigation water allocations and the continued popularity of the avocado has led to change in northern horticultural industries.
The threat of a repeat of the 2016/17 drought is never too far away from the minds of irrigators in Mareeba and the Atherton Tablelands. The news that construction of a new irrigation dam appears unlikely in the foreseeable future is cause for some concern, particularly given the high number of recent avocado and citrus tree plantings in the Mareeba and Dimbulah Irrigation Area. Growers have adapted to water security concerns by constructing dams that utilise existing overland runoff and recycled irrigation water that would normally go to waste. The benefit of these on farm dams is that they are not regulated by Sunwater, therefore the water is free from regulatory charges and the danger of reduced allocations. To improve the efficiency of these dams, growers are also upgrading their pumping infrastructure with variable speed drives which have resulted in significant savings on their electricity bills.
The above adaptations have helped growers in far north Queensland to expand into the profitable avocado sector. The recent sale of a mixed avocado and sugar cane property in the Mareeba district for nearly $60 million demonstrates the changing market. Many growers have successfully transitioned from traditional mango and other tropical fruit crops to Shepard and Hass avocadoes, chasing the insatiable consumer demand for avocadoes. Fruit prices in recent seasons have been very profitable with sales of going concern avocado farms very rare as growers have tended to hold on to these assets to take advantage of super profits. Nearly 50,000 trees have been planted in recent years in the Mareeba and Atherton districts as growers look to cash in on continued high prices.
But avocado prices down 20% in response to pandemic: Smash your avos at home: avocado farmers take hit after cafe restrictions
Between 10 and 20 per cent of all avocados grown in Australia are purchased by the food services sector.
“We have seen a real drop in the volume of sales that would normally go to the food services sector,” says Avocados Australia chief executive officer John Tyas.
Avocados Australia recently sent out an alert to growers on the impact of cafe closures on class one fruit. Harvest is currently underway in the Atherton Tablelands, Bundaberg and Childers in Queensland but Mr Tyas says avocados can be left for longer on trees.
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