Avocado prices high, limes at record highs for Cinco de MayoAvocado prices will likely stay high through Cinco de Mayo, and record lime prices could go even higher.

California’s crop is smaller than last year, for one. And a late Easter — April 20, just two weeks before Cinco de Mayo — could have shippers scrambling to find product to meet Cinco demand, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Santa Paula, Calf.-based Calavo Growers Inc.

“I think we’ll be able to supply promotions, but they definitely won’t be loss-leader-type promotions,” Wedin said. “After Easter, can we get inventories to supply the market quickly enough? Yes, we can, but we’ll have to pay pretty good money for them.”

On March 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $36.25-38.25 for two-layer cartons of hass 48s from Mexico, up from $31.25-32.25 last year at the same time.

Despite the higher prices, Ron Araiza, sales director for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce, expects brisk movement for Cinco. Mission expects to begin holiday promotions in mid-April.

“We should have adequate supplies at higher prices, but it hasn’t deterred demand, from what I’m hearing from our retail base,” Araiza said.

California shippers were adding about 15% volume per week in late March, and Wedin expected that to continue leading up to the holiday. But California won’t start to peak until June, and overall volumes won’t be as high as last year even when shipments peak. And Araiza will likely start shipping just too late to hit the holiday.

That leaves Mexico with the lion’s share for Cinco de Mayo.

“We had thought all along that prices would be high all along, and it looks like we’re headed in that direction,” Wedin said.

While California supplies will be limited, there should be a good mix of sizes, Wedin said. Mexican sizing also was increasing as the holiday neared.

Araiza thought Mexican fruit would peak on 48s and 60s for Cinco de Mayo, with excellent quality expected. California avocados should peak on 60s and smaller for the holiday.

Record limes prices not coming down

Lime supplies will not increase as Cinco de Mayo approaches, meaning that already-record prices could go even higher, said Cliff Wiebusch, sales manager for McAllen, Texas-based Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc.

Other than meeting a few commitments, Val Verde was not selling limes on March 27.

“Prices would probably be $100 for 200s and larger, $90-95 for 230s and $80-85 for 250s,” Wiebusch said.

On March 26, there were not enough limes in the U.S. market for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quote prices.

Making the current supply situation worse is the fact that Easter is so late this year, Wiebusch said. Workers typically take extended time off around the holiday.

“Cinco de Mayo’s not going to be good,” he said. “There probably won’t be any price relief until mid- to late May.”