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Seeka launches commercial planting programme for new GEM Avocado variety
13 December 2016


Seeka launches commercial planting programme for new GEM Avocado variety

Te Puke, 13 December - Seeka (NZX-SEK) has launched the first phase of the commercial planting programme for its new GEM Avocado variety, which has already drawn strong interest from potential growers.

Seeka acquired the New Zealand rights to the variety because it has a number of advantages over the dominant Hass variety grown in New Zealand, said Seeka Chief Executive Michael Franks.

“The interest from growers in acquiring GEM Avocado has been extremely high. They see it as providing them with a competitive edge because of its characteristics. And with the harsh lessons from Psa in the kiwifruit industry, there has been a realisation in the horticulture sector that you don’t want an industry based on just one main variety.”

GEM’s advantages include that it is less prone to alternate bearing, which has made it difficult for the New Zealand industry to achieve consistent year-on-year production. GEM is also a high-yielding variety that can be planted at a higher density than Hass and is easier for growers to manage. The variety, which has a tear-drop shape, is well-accepted in markets. And it matures a little later in the season, meaning the fruit will help fill the post-Christmas/New Year gap in the market.

“GEM will give our growers a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Annmarie Lee, Seeka General Manager Growers & Marketing. “The Australian market is usually very strong in January and February, and this will allow us to spread supply more effectively and maximise returns for our growers.”

Seeka Chief Technical Officer Dr Jonathan Dixon first became aware of GEM 16 years ago when he was working for the Avocado Industry Council, and saw GEM growing in California while working for the California Avocado Commission. The variety was originally discovered in the 1980s, and the cultivar acquired by Seeka came out of the University of California Riverside Avocado Breeding Programme. Seeka acquired the New Zealand rights from the master licence holder, Westfalia, in 2014.

“Our focus over the past couple of years has been to get mother trees established and build those numbers up so we have a good supply of budwood for grafting,” said Dr Dixon.

Seeka has licensed two nurseries, Lynwood Nursery in Whangarei and Riverson Nursery in Gisborne, who are building up the stock to supply growers.

Further planting of source trees by Seeka began in September and by early next year 90 GEM trees will be in the ground or top-worked on Seeka-leased orchards, with the first major planting of approximately 6,000-9,000 trees going into the ground in Spring 2017, and a further 6,000-9,000 trees in 2018. The first commercial quantities are expected in 2019-2020, with volumes increasing from then.

“The feedback we are getting from orchardists is that they are pleased  to  see a new investment in the industry with a longer term strategic approach,” said Dr Dixon.





Key characteristics of GEM Avocado

·         Less prone to alternate bearing. This is a long-term problem for the New Zealand industry which results in production typically dropping in alternate years. GEM trees have an alternate bearing index of 0.23, about half the 0.43 for Hass trees, according to research by the Californian avocado industry.

·         High yielding. The trees average more than 20 tonnes per hectare in South Africa, where the variety originates, and are yielding 10-to-15 percent greater than Hass in Chile.

·         Can be planted at a higher density than Hass. The trees are more compact, with fruit borne on the interior and protected from sunburn by the leaves. Seeka is recommending 300-400 trees per hectare, with three or four metre spacing along a row and six metre spacing between rows. By contrast, the Hass variety is typically planted out at around seven metre spacing, giving 184 trees per hectare.

·         Later maturing. The GEM variety is expected to mature at least a month later than Hass, meaning it can help supply the post-Christmas/New Year gap in the market.

·         GEM Avocado. The name comes from the initials of the original variety breeder Gray E. Martin.


About Seeka

·         NZX-listed Seeka is the largest producer of kiwifruit in Australasia, and a leading provider of post-harvest and supply chain services, delivering a wide range of fresh produce to an ever-growing range of global consumers.


Seeka Contacts

Michael Franks      Chief Executive                                  021-356-516

Annmarie Lee        GM, Growers & Marketing      021-766-244

Jonathan Dixon     Chief Technical Officer                       021-920-247


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