(Dec. 3) Regardless of the effects of year-round shipments of Mexican avocados to 47 states, made possible by a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture ruling, season-to-date shipments are down by a third because of lagging demand and strong Chilean fruit volumes.

By Nov. 27, Mexico shipped 13.8 million pounds of avocados, compared to 20.7 million at the same time a year ago.

As Chile’s volumes drop in late January, however, Mexican fruit will gain more of a foothold in the market, and the Mexican industry expects to double the volumes shipped during the 2003-04 season in the first year of the expanded market.

“Obviously, Chile has had an impact on our movement,” said Salvador Escobedo, U.S. market representative of the Michoacan Avocado Producer and Exporting Packer Association. “Chilean fruit is selling at a much lower price this season. I haven’t seen $12 f.o.b.s on Chilean fruit before, and that puts a lot of pressure on the Mexican fruit.”

Smaller sizes have hovered just below the mid-teens, but f.o.b.s for larger sizes have been in the mid-20s, according to the U.S. Department Agriculture.

On Nov. 29, two-layer cartons of hass from Mexico were $20.25-22.25 for 32s, $21.25-22.25 for 36s, $22.25-23.25 for 40s and 48s, and $20.25 for 60s. Cartons of Chilean avocados were $23.25-25.25 for 32-36s, $22.25 for 40s, $16.25-17.25 for 50s, $15.25 for 60s and 70s and $14.25 for 84s.

Randy Shoup, president of West Pak Avocado Inc., Temecula, Calif., said at least one of three things will need to occur before Mexico’s shipments see any significant increase: Chilean f.o.b.s need to increase, Chilean volumes need to decrease, and the field price for Mexican fruit must drop.

“Right now, it’s not a very profitable endeavor,” Shoup said.

Escobedo said the U.S. imported 42,600 metric tons of Mexican avocados last season, and estimates are for a doubling of that volume in 2005.

“We believe (the slow movement) is cyclical, and that a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving things will start picking up, heading to the Super Bowl,” he said.

With decreased shipments, more fruit is staying on the trees in Michoacan, which is the only Mexican state approved for shipping to the U.S. That means larger fruit in 2005, Escobedo said.

Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., said Chile’s presence in the marketplace will diminish at the end of January, but there will be plenty of fruit from Chile, Mexico and California to meet demand for the Feb. 6 Super Bowl.