NZ avocado growers eye shelf-life technology as new markets ripen
The initiative to introduce Dynamic controlled atmosphere (DCA) is the brainchild of the Avocado Growers’ Association (AGA).
“Funding has come from the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust and Plant and Food Research New Zealand are monitoring the trial,” Midge Munro, communications officer at AGA, told FoodNavigator Asia.
According to the AGA, DCA hibernates the avocado fruit inside a container by monitoring the oxygen level and keeping it just above the point where chlorophyll does not fluoresce.
The use of this technology, according to Munro, was necessary for the industry to develop an ability to reach new markets which have been unattainable for avocado exporters in the past because of the long shipping times.
“There is also the need to extend the life of the fruit once it gets to our existing markets to reduce pressure on handlers and decrease wastage in times of high volume,” he remarked.
Munro pointed out that avocados are currently exported for consumption and further use in food products to Australia, Japan, the US, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea.
“China and India are on the radar for future exports and we are currently working on the government-to-government agreements to get access to China,” he said.
Munro revealed that the association conducted a trial in December last year, where one DCA shipment of Avocados was sent to France. “Fruit was tested on arrival with some very good results, but one grower line returned poor results.”
“The poor results have been traced back to orchard treatments that did not follow best practices. For the other grower line, fruit looked good on arrival and held up well to the supermarket shelf and consumer,” he said.
According to the Munro, commercial use of DCA in shipping avocadoes is subject to the export market. “DCA is only effective for long shipping times, so we need market demand to require shipping times over three weeks to utilise the technology.”
“Our current market destinations don’t require DCA, but we expect to utlilise DCA for more fruit with large volumes expected in 2013-14. Also, DCA is used in a standard container so it doesn’t increase cost significantly,” he said.
Munro added that New Zealand is certainly looking to export to India within the next three to five years.
“Shipping times via Singapore or Hong Kong would require DCA and we want as an industry to be able to ship premium quality avocados to India when that becomes possible,” he said.