In the summer of 2012, shoppers browsing the produce department will scratch their heads when they get to the avocados.
“Wasn’t I paying twice as much for this last summer?”
OK, so no one knows what prices will be.
If I had a dollar for every time a shipper told me, after I asked him to speculate on markets, “If I had a crystal ball, I would’ve retired long ago,” I would be retired myself.
What’s fairly certain, however, is that 2012 will look a whole lot different than 2011 for people who ship, sell and eat avocados.
We’ve already had a taste of what’s coming. The super-strong summer avocado markets came to a screeching halt this fall when Mexico, Chile and — new this year — Peru came calling with product.
Prices fell so far, so fast, many Chilean shippers got scared off and steered more of their product to Europe.
As a result, Mexico wound up shouldering a bigger part of the load — up to 90% of all shipments some weeks — than it ever has.
Now, as the holidays and — just as important for the avocado industry, if not more important — the college bowl season and the Super Bowl near, Chile should make another big push into the market.
After that, for the foreseeable future, it should be, to borrow another line I get often from shippers, “Katy, bar the door.”
Mexico has a big crop. Chile has a big crop. And, in an about-face from 2011, California has a big 2012 crop.
In the 2012 calendar year, 1.4 billion pounds of avocados could ship in the U.S., a record, according to Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.
As popular as avocados are, marketers have their work cut out for them trying to move all that fruit, Wedin said.
“We have some growing pains we’re going to go through.”
California alone could ship 100 million more pounds in 2012 than it did in 2011, said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif.
Heading into the season, groves have enjoyed much more rainfall than last year at the same time, Henry said — twice as much, in some areas.
Henry’s excited about it.
He looks forward to a year in which retailers will be able to aggressively promote avocados on a consistent basis throughout the year, with fewer ups and downs likely.
“We feel pretty good about it,” he said.
“It gives us something to look forward to next year.”
Add Peru, the new kid on the block, to the mix, and 2012 is shaping up to be the Year of the Avocado, particularly for consumers who may have been turned off by high 2011 prices.
In its rookie year, Peru got off to a very late start. In 2012, weather permitting, supplies should start hitting in mid-summer, when Mexican and Chilean volumes are at their lowest of the season.
As a consumer, the prospect of throwing three avocados into the basket instead of one or two is one great big Prospero Año.
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