Avocados: off the menu?
Smashed avocado on sourdough may drop off menus around Melbourne or the price may soar as the cost of the fruit skyrockets.
And it is set to stay that way for weeks.
In supermarkets, consumers can buy avocados for about $4, but on the Mornington Peninsula at Balnarring last weekend they were selling for a staggering $5.99.
Closer to Melbourne, at Toscano's, a fruit and vegetable retailer in Toorak, Richmond and Kew, avocados are selling for two for $10.
The regular price range is between $1.50 and $3 each.
It is a supply and demand issue says Avocados Australia chief executive John Tyas.
As summer kicks off, Victorian and South Australian avocados become plentiful and affordable. We develop a taste and then the season finishes. Supplies plummet just as we get used to avocados in our diet.
Avocados eaten now are most likely to come from New Zealand with a few trickling through from Western Australia where farmers have started to grow them to fill the supply void.
"There is supply, just not enough, for the market which is growing, especially in the last five years," Tyas said.
The rain in New Zealand has added to this year's supply problem because harvesting in wet weather ruins the fruit.
Christmas and New Year also saw a slowdown in picking in Western Australia, Tyas said.
"There is still more fruit to be harvested in Western Australia," Tyas said.
Jack Wilson, a spokesman for grower-based marketing company All Aussie Farmers, said the wait for Western Australian avocados was also momentarily delayed.
"It's been a short year for avocados. WA and NZ prices have stayed high," Wilson said.
"To make it worse, it is raining over in WA at the moment (Wednesday) so they can't pick fruit either."
Avocados will become plentiful again, but probably not until April when the Queensland season will be in full swing, Tyas says.
Melbourne Market wholesaler Greg Scopelleti, whose family owns an avocado farm in the Sunraysia region of Victoria, says prices are at a 20-year high.
He said the price of a box of up to 23 avocados had been as much as $120. At their cheapest, when avocados are plentiful, they can be as little as $20 a box, a regular price is $30 to $40.
"It hasn't happened like this for 20 years," Scopelleti said.
"It's finishing as of this week ... I've sold my last box for the season.
"Avocados used to be a bit of luxury. Now they have become a staple, people substitute it for butter, have it on toast, salads."
The risk, Tyas said, was that Australians would turn off avocados because of the price hike and not realise the price had dropped when supply came back.
"I don't think those sorts of prices are good for anyone. You risk consumers moving away from the category and then they will need convincing to come back," Tyas said.