Want an Avocado Tree in New Zealand? Get in Line!

Public Domain. MaxPixel

Demand for this 'green gold' is so high that people are waiting months to get a sapling for backyard planting.

Avocado trees are in such high demand in New Zealand right now that, if you went into a nursery, you wouldn't be able to buy an avocado sapling. You'd be put on a waitlist, along with hundreds of other people.

Nursery owner Lloyd Houghton, whose next shipment of saplings isn't due until the end of September, says he has 86 orders for Hass avocados, 44 for the Bacon variety, 58 for Fuerte, and 29 for Reed. He says people come in every day, all day, asking about avocado trees. Another nursery called The Plant Depot says it has been sold out of avocados since April. Employee Andrew Grilli told Stuff NZ that a quarter of the trees in the next shipment are already spoken for:

"[Avocado trees] are very sought after and there's definitely a shortage," Grilli said. "We buy from wholesale nurseries -- that's where the shortage is." It takes about two years for wholesalers to cultivate the plant, he said, and their popularity and high prices could be driving demand.

What has spurred this new interest in avocados? The nursery growers suspect it has to do with avocado prices, which reached a high of NZ$7 (US$4.60) per fruit earlier this year. (This has also triggered a wave of fruit thefts from avocado orchards across New Zealand and efforts to help consumers identify stolen goods.) With avocado mania being what it is, eating them is an expensive habit to maintain and having a tree in one's backyard is a logical solution.

But Houghton says he's seen increased interest in all kinds of fruit trees, including persimmons (100 people on the waitlist). He attributes this to a growing desire for connection with one's food sources, calling it the "grow-your-own, spray-free lifestyle." This TreeHugger is a big fan of that!

People want avocado saplings now because spring is the ideal time for planting, and that's approaching in the southern hemisphere. This gives the tree nine months to harden in preparation for its first winter, but it will still be a long time before there's fruit. The Stuff NZ article says it can take anywhere from three to five years for a tree to start gaining size and fruiting. If you're growing from seed, Better Homes & Gardens says it's more like 13 years. In other words, that frugal, homegrown avocado toast will be a long time coming.