'Bigger and creamier': How Australia could get its favourite avocados earlier than ever before
A far north Queensland farmer hopes to cash in on Australia's love affair with avocados, with a new crop designed to extend the country's growing season.
This season Leon Collins is planting 10,000 avocado plants at his property in Lakeland, around three hours north of Cairns.
It's believed to be the northernmost crop of the stone fruit in Australia.
The farmer is growing a South-African variety of avocado called Maluma Hass, and reckons the fruit is "bigger and creamier" than the typical Hass grown in Australia.
"Year two we'll start to see a fair bit of fruit hanging, and then year three is when they start to strap out in production," he said.
Mr Collins runs banana farms in the Tully Valley, and bought the Cape York property four years ago.
"It was for risk mitigation for cyclones originally ... and now it's definitely for disease control as well."
He thinks his fruit will beat most of his competitors to market.
"We're looking at putting a Hass-type variety in in the Shepard market in Australia, which should do very well, because that's what everyone's looking for," Mr Collins said.
"We should be ahead of the Mareeba area by a couple of weeks, just because geographically we're a little bit further north."
Growers pushing north
Farming on the Cape York Peninsula comes with its own set of challenges, with less infrastructure in place in the remote region.
"We're two hours north of Mareeba so you've got to have a bit of economy of scale to make it work," Mr Collins said.
"Labour's not a real problem either as we've got big backpackers down the road."
Lakeland is about as far north as farmers can currently grow, as the roads are unsealed and prone to flooding from around 100 kilometres north of Mr Collins' property.
Access to water can also be difficult.
Industry to double in next decade
John Tyas from peak body Avocados Australia said the volume of avocado production in the country has doubled in the past 10 years.
Despite that, Australia still imports the fruit from overseas for several months a year.
"There is a period around January and February where we really do struggle to meet demand ... at the end of the WA season and the beginning of the north Queensland season," Mr Tyas said.
He thinks the industry will double once again in the next decade.
He said 25 per cent to 30 per cent of all avocado trees currently in the ground were yet to come into full production.
For that reason, Avocados Australia is looking to grow the export market, particularly in opening access to countries where there are currently quarantine restrictions.
"If we don't put that effort in now, in five to 10 years' time, when these trees come into full production, we'll have pressure in our existing markets."