While homeownership remains an unattainable dream for many young Australians, at least avocados have suddenly become a lot more affordable.
The average price of a single hass avocado fell to $1.20 in June, far from the all-time high of $9 on supermarket shelves in 2018.
That’s thanks to Australians’ voracious appetite for the Central American fruit, says avocado grower Alan Blight of Avowest Farms in Western Australia’s Carabooda.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve been planting more and more trees as we tried to keep up with domestic consumption,” says Blight.
“It’s only in the last 12 months that supply has outpaced demand.”
Instead of spending $10 on a single lettuce, you might as well buy 10 avocados.
Alan Blight, avocado grower
John Tyas, CEO of Avocados Australia, estimates that avocado consumption has increased from 3.5 to 4.8 kilograms per person per capita in the past fiscal year. But that wasn’t enough to explain a production increase of about 200 percent.
Blight says it’s bad news for farmers, who will be “lucky enough to break even” after rising fuel and fertilizer prices saw production costs skyrocket.
Melbourne retailer Caroline Bayliss of Green Onions Organic Grocer reports that farmers have dumped large quantities of low-quality conventional avocados as packaging and shipping costs exceed potential profits.
“It’s a shocking waste,” said Bayliss, noting that the price of organic avocados has held steady at about $3.40.
“We want growers to get a decent price, we don’t want them to lose it. We’re a tight-knit supply chain.”
As a farmer, Blight says he “would love it if avocados were worth twice as much.”
“But it’s a really great opportunity for people to try them for the first time, whip up a few every week and really enjoy them,” he says.
“Instead of spending $10 on a single lettuce, you might as well buy 10 avocados.”
Even a few extra avocados a week at your grocery store will “go a long way” in helping farmers, Tyas says.
Cafes are heeding the call, using avocados to fill dishes hit by widespread product shortages.
At the popular Bondi brunch spot Harrys, Chef Bryan O’Callaghan says their new winter menu will feature their tried-and-true avocado toast, as well as a “nourishing bowl” of avocado.
“We have to look around to see what’s cheap and try to include it in the menu,” says O’Callaghan.
“That’s a good thing. In the past, some cafes didn’t change their menu for more than six months. Now you have to be creative.”
Melbourne cafe Rustica chef Sidney Tor says he’s swapped leafy greens for avocado in his chicken sandwiches.
“It gives it more of a creamy texture, which people love,” says Tor.
“It certainly helped with our product bill.”
Collingwood cafe Terror Twilight owner Kieran Spiteri says he can swap a side of smashed avocado for half an avocado dipped in black sesame seeds.
However, do not expect the price of avocado toast to fall.
“We definitely couldn’t lower prices at this point because it’s still such a challenge to get good products and make it profitable,” explains Spiteri.
“If avocado toast is a little bit cheaper for us to make, it just makes up for a lot of the other ingredients that are more expensive now.”
Jason Ryan, owner of fresh produce market Hillview Farms in Leichhardt, Sydney, says avocado prices will stabilize in the coming years as more states gain permission to export overseas.
Meanwhile, Spiteri says there are plenty of ways to get the most out of avocados at home.
“You can pair it with orange or purple winter vegetables that have been pickled, grilled, or roasted,” he says.
“We like to serve it on toast with pickled pumpkin, a heavier element like onion jam, and sprinkled with tamari-coated pumpkin seeds.
“It’s one of our biggest sellers. If we ever took it off the menu, we’d be in big trouble.”
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