The consumption of avocados in Japan is growing, but the Japanese are still learning the best ways to eat the luxury fruit.
New Zealand exporter group AVANZA is hosting the president of Japan’s largest avocado importer and other senior industry officials in the Bay of Plenty in a bid to strengthen their trade relationship.
On Thursday they visited an orchard in Katikati and planted an avocado tree.
They are visiting several packhouses and supermarkets on their visit in an effort to see firsthand New Zealand’s avocado industry and how it works, including how the fruit they import is picked and packed.
Mr Keizo Takahashi, president of the leading Japanese supermarket Maruetsu, is part of the delegation of high ranking officials from Union Company, Maruetsu and distributor, Japan Fresh Foods.
As part of their visit they were treated to a six course meal at Mount Bistro restaurant, with a menu completely designed around avocados – including an avocado and brie cheesecake and a caramelised avocado and lime tart for dessert.
Mr Takahashi says because avocados have a high nutritional content, people are eating a lot more of them.
In the past, fruit has not been a big part of Japanese meals.
Now, they are taking measures to teach people about avocados, including supermarket demonstrations, and giving them recipes for using avocados – they are hoping to pick up more recipes while they are in New Zealand.
The groups’ first impressions of New Zealand avocado orchards were that they were “well taken care of and treated well”.
They also commented the way packing houses are managed is very sophisticated, “so it’s more reliable”.
The three day visit is being hosted by Te Puna-based exporter Southern Produce Ltd and grower supply group Team Avocado.
“This year will be AVANZA’s biggest-ever shipment to Japan with a volume of around 360,000 trays at a value of around NZD$9 million,” says chief executive officer Tony Ponder.
“Japan is one of New Zealand’s key export markets. We’ve been fortunate to have the president of Union Company visit before, however, to also have Mr Keizo Takahashi, president of such a prestigious supermarket as Maruetso, visit any New Zealand supplier is a real achievement.
“We hope that all delegates will gain a greater appreciation for New Zealand’s world-class growing practices along with our very stringent food safety standards and how these relate to the premium that our product achieves in Japan against our Mexican and Chilean competitors.”
Mexico dominates the Japan market – supplying 80 per cent of the avocados.
Japanese delegates plant an avocado tree during their visit to New Zealand.
A special menu of avocado dishes was created for the Japanese visitors.
Yellow Fin Tuna seared with a sesame seed crust on an avocado and kiwifuit salad.
Avocado and brie cheesecake with saffron onions.