California avocado shippers look forward to brisk movement of a big, high-quality crop.

Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif., said California shippers should come pretty close to the California Avocado Commission’s season estimate of just under 400 million pounds.

The week of Feb. 6, Henry Avocado was harvesting light volumes from its groves, focusing on branches or whole trees that will be removed for thinning, Henry said.

Some California grower-shippers that had large sizes on young trees were able to take advantage of strong Super Bowl pull, said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

Harvests were light in the first two to three weeks of February, with steady week-to-week volume increases of about 33% expected to begin in late February, Wedin said.

By mid- to late February most California growers would be size-picking, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Because of the big crop, and a lack of rain, fruit was slow to size, Wileman said. Combine that fact with continued large volumes from Mexico and Chile, and most California shippers weren’t expected to start shipping peak volumes until April, he said.

Volumes will start to pick up in March and April with peak availability through September, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.

“The crop quality is great, very clean externally, and the early season cutting and eating quality has been very good,” DeLyser said.

Henry Avocado expects volumes to pick up in March, with a gradual buildup throughout spring.

“We should be at peak harvest during June, July and August,” Henry said.  

Henry Avocado expects its harvest to wind down in early to mid-September. California growers in the northern growing areas will likely harvest later in the fall.

All signs in early February pointed toward a good year, Henry said.

“Sizes are pretty normal and quality looks excellent,” he said. “We had a lot of rain last year, so our trees went into this year in very good condition.”

Henry Avocado expects adequate volume in most sizes, especially the 48s and 60s that retailers love.  

“With the larger crop, prices should be very promotable, so there should be a lot of opportunity for customers to promote during the spring and summer.” Henry said.

On Feb. 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $26.25-27.25 for two-layer cartons of Mexican avocados size 48s, down from $32.25 last year at the same time.

Calavo expects California sizes to peak on 48s and 40s, Wedin said.

“California growers have a good crop this year.” he said.

“They’re ripening well now and the flavor is better every day.”

Calavo’s production will be heavy by April and should peak in June and July, Wedin said.

In Mexico, meanwhile, thanks to a late start to ensure maturity, production has been stronger than predicted for more than three months, Wedin said.

With the Super Bowl now in the rearview mirror, Mexico volumes will likely start to drop, Wedin said. Mexico will, however, have abundant volumes for Cinco de Mayo promotions, he said.

Calavo expected its Chilean volumes to begin declining in the second half of February. Shipments from Chile should continue at that lower level through March, Wedin said.