Beetles cause havoc with avocados

THE MONOLEPTA beetle is back in town and has been causing havoc in avocado orchards across the Northern Rivers.

The beetle, which attacks flowers, leaves and fruit, has been feasting on local orchards throughout the region.

“I haven’t seen anything like this number of beetles in 12 years,” Tuckombil avocado grower Bonnie Walker said.

“They can be very vicious.”

A dry spring last year, high temperatures and humidity have been blamed for the infestation.

Mrs Walker said she expected the damage caused by the beetle would reduce the yield of avocados when harvest started on her farm next month.

“We prefer not to use sprays to control them because we have neighbours about,” Mrs Walker said.

“It’s a last resort.”

This year, huge consumer demand for avocados has lead to prices as high as $55 a tray; Mrs Walker is hoping the price will hold until she gets her fruit off.

Avocado Australia Northern Rivers’ representative Tom Silver agreed monolepta numbers this year had been high.

However, not all orchards had not been affected.

In fact, one grower had reported an expectation that this would be his best year yet, Mr Silver said.

Avocados have an ‘on year’ and an ‘off year,’ he said.

The fact that this has been an ‘on year’ may make up for the destructive beetle and result in an average yield across the region.

The Northern Rivers normally produces about 400,000 trays of avocados, while Australia produces about 7.5 million.

About two million trays are imported to Australia from New Zealand each year.

Mr Silver said Australians loved avocados, but not as much as South Americans who on average consumed 35kg of avocados per person each year.

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