Kia ora, welcome to our Avocado Quarterly Newsletter

eNews Avocado 1st Quarter, March 2023

Leigh Neilson
TAGL Director

Sharing Statistics

It always creates some discussion amongst growers when Stats & Averages are tabled and compared.

So, I thought I would do just that for our small orchard (141 Trees including pollinators)


I keep diligent records on this, and have done so from when we planted 20 years ago

Total annual rainfall in 2022 was 51% more than 2021.

2021 Average Monthly Rainfall: 118mm
2022 Average Monthly Rainfall: 180mm

2021 Wettest Three Months:


2022 Wettest Three Months:



Over the last five years we have consistently achieved 100 to 105 bins per year from 129 producing trees, which is approximately 0.80 bins per tree. This has been at the expense of aggressive height pruning, resulting in our packout rate steadily falling over this five-year period. (We have reduced trees, including pollinators, to 5-6m in February this year)

Looking at our domestic market OGR over these five years, the very good return (other than the 2021 season) that has been received has to some degree offset windrub and GHT reject causes. Whilst not ideal, we think we have had a good outturn.

Pruning/Mulching Expense

Our cost per tree (141) excluding gst was $53.31. We used an under-tree mulcher who took 11.5 hours as there was plenty of big wood and the pruners took 59.75 hours in total (Two ladders).

Guess what? – We can now see right through the orchard!


All up, including forklift, ground picking and relocation costs, our picking cost excluding gst was $167 a bin. This was before we pruned. Very little fruit was left behind, and there were no larger branches broken. Maybe Yvonne’s smoko muffins for the pruners helped!


In Daniel’s latest Avocado Update, he included a quick survey, TAGL committee encourages all growers to do this as it helps the committee to support growers with efficiencies. Unless we have your feedback, it is hard to make the most effective decisions for us all! Take the survey here!


Daniel Birnie
Avocado Manager

Operations Update

It’s around this time of year when we celebrate some of the good results our growers are getting on the orchard. Below I list the top five growers for tonnes per hectare from this last season and the top five export packout percentages.

Then below that we look at our top 5 tonnes per ha over a 3-year average.

Well done to the growers above, some great results there! For context, 25 tonne per hectare equates to around 75 bins per hectare.

This season to date, we have packed 251,580 export trays and 262,311 local market trays. This was the lowest number of trays we have packed in five years, as referenced in the table below.

The export percentage has been the lowest in the past six years, and there’s currently a lot of debate as to what this coming season will bring.

AVOCO recently asked us for an initial crop estimate for next season, and we replied with the commentary.

Our export packout averaged 48% in the past season. We have had numerous discussions with the team, and reviewed crop loads for our 20 largest growers (however we haven’t yet completed crop estimates on these orchards). The primary observations are that the Coromandel is down, Katikati is down slightly, Opotiki is down, and Te Puke is up. The general feeling is that we will be up by 10% – 20% in volume.

Packout wise, there have been challenges; leafroller is worse this season, we have had two cyclones, and we are yet to experience the autumn thrips season.

Growers may not apply as many sprays, due to their financial position.

In conclusion, our feeling is that packout could range anywhere between 45% to 55% for Class 1. This brings us to a low range of 257,462 and a high range of 343,283 for Class 1 trays.

Crop estimation is a challenging game in avocados, and last season we overestimated our crop by 17% on bins, and 38% on export trays.

The avocado team is commencing crop estimates on orchards now, and from our learnings last season, we will be a bit more conservative on packout percentages.  We are quietly confident we can get it right, and we look forward to catching up with you on your orchards this year.

In other news, the avocado team has an article in the Bay Of Plenty Business News! Check it out here.


Katherine Bell
Grower Liaison Representative

Discussion group commentary

Recently, we held Discussion Groups in Whakatane, Te Puke and Katikati. After the record amount of rainfall these areas have experienced, and the reports from growers of flooding in their orchards, we decided to hold Discussion Groups on how to mitigate the issues associated with flooding.

Some interesting points that arose from the discussion were:

  • At Carol and Eddie Biesiek’s Orchard in Katikati, we looked at 4-year-old trees which have been planted on humps only a couple of meters above sea level. The surface water was still present in areas, but there were very few wilting trees. The trees that were wilting looked to only need a prune back to recover. This showed the impact humping/mounding can have, and growers agreed it would be something to think about doing with replants in wetter areas of their own orchards.
  • At John Eveleens and Jeni Roffs Orchard in Whakatane, we looked at an older orchard with blocks which had been replanted a few years ago; the trees had not handled the wet in areas. We discussed the importance of drains and keeping them clean. There were areas where drainage had been added to the orchard, and you could see the positive effect this had to the health of the trees.
  • At Kathy and Peter Harebs orchard in Te Puke, we had a quick discussion about how wet this summer season has been on orchards in the area. We talked about injecting trees to protect them against phytophthora, which will be colonising the weakened root systems and, after a discussion on pruning trees to rebalance the root to shoot ratio, there was a shift in conversation to the fact that this orchard will be staghorned and become high density.

Please click HERE to view the handout that was used for the discussion groups. We are looking at running another set of discussion groups before winter. If you have any topics you’re interested in, or if you would like to offer up your orchard to hold a meeting, please let your representative know.


Jonathan Cutting
Avocado Technical Manager

Soil health

As we continue into autumn, I am reminded that this is the time when we undertake leaf and soil testing to determine the condition of soils in our orchards, assess tree health,  and determine the success of our past year’s fertilizer programme, using established nutrient norms.  To me, it all starts with the soil.  Conventional wisdom is that the long-term success of an orchard is largely determined by the initial choices made around soil selections.  The saying “you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” is very true and does apply when matching soil potential with tree species requirements.  More recently the term “soil health” has crept into the literature and become a cornerstone of the sustainability movement.  So…… what is soil health and why is it important?

The Ministry for the Environment describes soil health as ‘’a soil’s “on-going ability to function as a living ecosystem that supports plant, animal and human health”.  A healthy soil supports high biodiversity and biodiversity is essential for a healthy soil ecosystem.

The UN Agency’s Intergovernmental Technical Group on Soils (ITPS) has defined healthy soil as “the ability to sustain productivity, diversity and environmental services of terrestrial ecosystems”.

There is no over-arching definition for “healthy soil” but from a commercial view, it encompasses sustainable yields, biodiversity and soil rehabilitation.  Soil degradation in agricultural systems is perhaps the most negative consequence of modern, high-extraction agriculture.  More importantly, exploitative and high-extraction agriculture practices are not sustainable.

It is interesting that we do not talk more about soil health and regenerative agriculture.  Once again, we have a generalised concept of what regenerative agriculture is, yet it is weak on definition.  I believe that soil health and regenerative agriculture have a great deal of overlap.  If we are to talk about soil health we do need to be able to measure it.  There are many measures of “soil health” and for the purposes of this article I would like to focus on just a few for us to think on:

  • Total carbon – measures all organic and non-organic carbon forms. Carbon is a food and energy source for microorganisms and influences the soil’s water and nutrient- holding capacity.
  • Mineralisable nitrogen – measures the quantity of organic nitrogen that microorganisms can process and makes available to plants. Additionally, it gives an estimate of the amount of microorganisms in the soil.
  • Macroporosity – the measure of the large- pore spaces between soil particles. This is very important as it allows air and water to “flow” through the soil.

There are many other measures including soil pH, the ratio of fungi to bacteria, soil organic matter, total nitrogen, soil bulk density and soil phosphate to name a few.  The biodiversity of soil is one aspect of soil quality that is not routinely monitored in New Zealand. Soil contains a multitude of insects, worms, fungi, and invisible microorganisms (like bacteria and protozoa), which together make up 25 percent of Earth’s total biodiversity according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Soil microorganisms can free up nutrients for plants to grow and helps protect them from disease. Using land intensively can reduce soil biodiversity (through the use of fertiliser, pesticides, tilling and compaction). However, remedial approaches are using regenerative agriculture principles that can reverse biodiversity loss and improve soil health.

Healthy soil supports high- biodiversity, with myriads of microorganisms forming complex, intricate networks and interacting to process carbon and nutrients. These microorganisms contribute to nutrient cycling, plant growth and a plant’s defence against pathogens (disease-causing organisms).  Soil ecosystems that have greater biodiversity are better able to respond to change, including season nuances.

The benefits of good soil health and regenerative agriculture are obvious to anyone growing a long-term horticultural crop such as avocado. The big question is “so what can I do to improve soil health that fits in with what I already do and doesn’t cost the earth?” The key things to focus on are:

    • Biodiversity- primarily using the sward (grass section) to drive biodiversity using multiple, but synergistic orchard floor species.
    • Choosing an orchard sward species that are predator and insect friendly.
    • Building functional soil carbon using composts, mulches and biochar.
    • Reducing the unnecessary use of equipment in the orchard, thereby reducing compaction.
    • Significantly increasing soil CEC enabling the application of regular, but small, amounts of fertiliser, thereby, increasing fertiliser efficiency and reducing the total amount of fertiliser applied.
    • Increasing the available pool of mineralizable fertiliser.
    • Maintaining soil pH in the 6.4-6.8 range.
    • Increasing soil fungal and bacterial biodiversity.
    • Creating soils that are suppressive to pathological fungi.
    • Continuously improving macroporosity
    • Significantly reducing phosphate, mineral nitrogen and elemental copper to the orchard floor.

    To me, a key measure of healthy soil is productivity. If yields are dropping, then it is likely that the soil is slowly “degrading”, In the orchard environment, this can be reflected in a myriad of ways, including but not limited to  as pH changes, compaction, loss of macro-porosity, loss of soil carbon and trace element depletion.  We need to be aware that good soil health for a “rain forest” tree, like avocado, requires soils that are fungal dominant and fungal diverse. It would pay to get your soil tested by the Soil Food Web every two to three years to ensure that the correct inputs are being made and that money is not being wasted.

    A key concept in “soil health” is that soil is seen as a macro interlinked and living ecosystem, rather than as a “sterile and dead” substrate such as “rooting media” in a hydroponic system.  This means that instead of viewing soils as a two- consideration matrix (chemical and physical) we need to view soil as a three- consideration matrix with the addition of soil biology.  The moment we accommodate biology into our thinking, we automatically incorporate the concept of nuture!

    Sustainability (in both its widest and narrowest thinking) and exploitation are mutually exclusive. I look forward to the day when agricultural leadership has advanced to the point that the only consideration is:

    • Sustainable productivity and quality
    • Social sustainability and cohesion
    • Environmental sustainability
    • Financial sustainability

    When we achieve these sustainability goals we can proudly say “this is what success looks like”.  Building and focusing on “soil health” will have been instrumental in getting us there.


    Laura Schultz
    Grower Liaison Representative

    Orchard Update

    Some of you would have attended our Field Day in November at one of our managed orchards, the Marshall’s orchard on Rangiuru Road.

    Since then, we have double-planted two out of the four blocks so that there is now two blocks planted at 8x8m and two blocks planted at 8x4m.

    Since planting, we have done one round of pruning on the older trees in the double-planted block to manage height and keep light in the canopy.

    Daniel and I recently spent some time removing nursery fiberglass stakes from trees where they had been missed. If these are left in too long, they cannot be pulled out, so some have been cut off with an angle grinder at ground level – it’s safe to say, pulling these out of our new plantings is marked in the calendar for spring.

    We recently completed the crop estimate for the 2023/2024 season. This is 43 bins on 4-year-old trees. This will be the first export crop for this orchard, so we have been keeping a close eye on the pest monitor reports and spraying appropriately.

    Zara Marra
    Local Market Manager

    Domestic market update

    • With higher-than-expected export packouts, the domestic market saw sufficient volumes. NZ AVO recorded 2.9mil TE’s season to date (from June).
    • 90k Class 2 TE’s were exported, this relieved pressure and complemented domestic values.
    • Market demand has remained steady through this last quarter. The constant weather disruptions to harvest caused a push- pull effect in the market. The inconsistency in weekly supply nationally, brought upwards pressure on values as seen in the graph below.
    • Due to low export packouts, larger volumes were harvested early to fulfil export demand, resulting in a shorter domestic season. The season is expected to finish mid to last April.
    • With lower volumes retailers have implemented a temporary spec for the late season supply.

    Class 2 returns per tray for the October – January period.

    Notice the tripling in value for size 24 count over this period.


    Sarah Lei
    Head of Sustainability

    Sustainable finance

    Trevelyan’s have been working to improve our sustainability outcomes for over a decade. At the beginning of 2023, we made a significant commitment to a more sustainable future by agreeing to a Sustainability Linked Loan (SLL) with our banking partner ASB.

    Over the last five years, Trevelyan’s have invested in additional land to expand the site, built conventional and controlled atmosphere cool stores, and added more packing and automation capacity to handle the increasing Sun Gold crop. Funding for these projects has come from reinvesting the company’s profits, alongside extra borrowings from ASB.

    Sustainability-linked loans (SLLs) aim to facilitate environmentally and socially sustainable economic activity and growth. They do so by aligning the loan terms to the borrower’s performance, which is measured using one or more sustainability targets.

    The targets must be:

    • Relevant, core and material to the borrower’s overall business, and of high strategic significance to the borrower’s current and future operations;
    • Measurable or quantifiable on a consistent methodological basis; and
    • Able to be benchmarked (i.e. using an external reference or definitions to ensure a high level of ambition).

    Trevelyan’s have been working with ASB and Deloitte to develop three specific Sustainable Finance Targets. If we meet these targets, we will get a discount on the amount of interest we pay on our loans.

    The three targets we have agreed on are:

    1. Waste – Achieve at least a 10% annual reduction in landfill waste associated with the packing and transport of fruit, using 2021 as a baseline.
    2. Carbon Emissions – Achieve at least a 2.5% annual reduction in our carbon emissions from fuel, refrigerant losses and electricity per kilotonne of fruit received, using 2021 as a baseline
    3. Wellness – Achieve the Gold Workwell Accreditation

    Based on our current term borrowings, achievement of the agreed targets will enable Trevelyan’s to achieve a reasonable saving in interest costs over the next three years.

    The targets we have set are extremely challenging and we need everyone’s help to get us over the line. We ask everyone who comes on-site to make sure that they take away any landfill waste brought with them and to take care to put recycling in the correct bin. We are implementing initiatives to use less fuel, save electricity and prevent refrigerant leaks. Workwell is a comprehensive program that supports the wellness and wellbeing of all our employees.

    We hope that these targets will help us achieve our wider kaupapa (purpose) – growing a better future for our people, our environment and our industry.




    Mike and Gina McCauley

    Where are you based and how long have you been growing avocados?

    Hereford Park Road, close to the Rotoehu Forest. We bought our orchard in June 2016, so we have been growing avocados for 7 years.

    What do you enjoy most about your orchard / what’s been the biggest highlight?

    The biggest highlight was in May 2019 when I had a relatively big autumn set on my trees and 11 bins sold for $67,000. I enjoy using my engineering skills to come up with ways to make orchard tasks easier – like adapting the claw on my digger to clean up big logs from pruning. (pictured below)

    What has been the biggest challenge of being a grower for you?

    Having enough hours in the day to get everything done.

    Can you tell us a little bit about your history?

    I grew up at the top of Maungarangi Road and am the 5th generation from Te Puke. My engineering background started at Pearce engineering for 3 years, then I spent 17 years at Affco, and have been managing coolstores at Trevelyan’s for the past 16 years.

    What do you do in your spare time – do you have any hobbies?

    Hunting and fishing.

    Where do you see your orchard in 10 years’ time?

    Hopefully, still there with the industry still going strong. I plan for my trees to be no bigger than what I can reach with my 640 hydralada.

    What’s an interesting fact most people don’t know about you?

    Fellow Coolstore Manager, Troy Ward, helped us out with this answer – “Mike is an avid fisherman who often gets out-fished by his wife” (proof above)


    Shonny Tamatea
    Packhouse Manager

    Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

    I am a mum to an adorable little girl and a step-mum to two beautiful children.

    I live in a sub-rural part of Pongakawa, I’ve lived in Te Puke and surrounding areas for almost 15 years. I was born and raised in Kawerau and moved to Te Puke as a young teenager.

    What attracted you to working at Trevelyan’s? 

    I started at Trevelyan’s as a high school student, my family worked here so it was a comfortable place to be. The more I stuck around, the more I liked the place. I started working my way up the work ladder and found myself absolutely intrigued and loving the local market processes.

    What is your role and what does it involve? 

    I am a Local Market Packhouse Manager. Simply, my job is to pack the fruit our growers provide, whether it’s avocados or kiwifruit. Being the manager also involves forming a team out of total strangers. Having a happy team shows in the service we provide, packing the fruit to the highest quality for our growers and customers.

    When you’re not at work what do you like to do? 

    You can find me curled up on the couch with my baby watching Disney movies and Netflix. Other than that you’d catch me in the kitchen, I love cooking and trying out new recipes.