(May 3) Federal legislation that would apply California minimum maturity standards to imported avocados drew measured responses from representatives of Chilean and Mexican avocados in early May.

On April 26, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would apply mandatory minimum maturity standards to all domestic and imported hass avocados. The same day, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., introduced a similar bill. The legislators want to attach the measures to the 2007 farm bill.

Tom Bellamore, senior vice president and corporate counsel for the California Avocado Commission, Irvine, said the bills would help eliminate consumer dissatisfaction with immature fruit. California’s maturity standard is 20.3% of dry matter. A minimum maturity level correlates to the oil content of the fruit, he said.

“An immature piece of fruit never really ripens and is rubbery and hard,” he said.

That leads to consumer disappointment and frustrates efforts to build the market. Bellamore could not describe how widespread the problem is but said when it does happen, research shows consumers won’t buy avocados again for nine weeks.

“We can’t afford to have anyone out of the market that long,” he said.

Bellamore said federal legislation was being pursued rather than a federal marketing order because growers want to avoid the administrative burden the order would put on the industry.

Emiliano Escobedo, New York-based representative of APEAM, the Michoacan, Mexico, exporters association, said Mexican producers were aware of the bill and were confident that Mexican hass fruit can meet or exceed the maturity standard. Mexican exporters conform to a higher voluntary maturity level, at 23% dry matter, he said.

Xavier Equihua, vice president of the Federal Strategies Group, Washington, D.C., represents the interests of Chilean avocado producers.

More than 80% of Chilean avocados abide by a voluntary minimum maturity standard that is higher than California’s, he said.