(Jan. 29) Avocado shippers expect steady movement ahead as the deal moves more from Chilean to Californian production.

“I think we’ll probably see business as usual for the next month or two,” said Dave Culpeper, import/export director for West Pak Avocado, Temecula, Calif. In late January, he said, the market was still going through a post-Super Bowl holiday lull.

Still, the prospect of higher prices lies ahead, shippers say.

Avocado arrivals from Chile are winding down, and the fruit should clear the U.S. pipeline by the third week of February, said Rankin McDaniel, owner of McDaniel Fruit Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif. Meanwhile, avocado production from Southern California has been limited thanks to a Mexican fruit fly quarantine in San Diego County.

Industry estimates put 70 million pounds of avocados in the quarantine area, which spans 117 square miles.

The avocados from the quarantine zone won’t be eligible for harvest until at least April, and the market should decrease then, Culpeper said. McDaniel expected lower supplies from February through April.

Some California shippers have offset the quarantine by harvesting north of San Diego in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, he said. Harvest crews were select picking sizes 48s and larger in late January.

“That’s kind of filling in the areas where we would usually get that fruit from down south,” Culpeper said. McDaniel said his company was harvesting in Fallbrook and north San Diego County.

The lower volumes of size 48s hass avocados from California were leading to f.o.b.s of $30-34 for two-layer trays from Southern California in late January, Culpeper said. That compares with prices of $24.25-25.75 the same time last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last season, f.o.b.s for 48s climbed gradually until reaching the $28.25-29.75 range on Feb. 19, according to the USDA.

McDaniel said Chile has been extending its shipping season later. This season, it aimed heavy volumes at Super Bowl promotions, much the way Mexico has begun shipping heavy for the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

Culpeper said Super Bowl movement was “middle of the road” this year. McDaniel said the industry still needed time to gauge retail movement.

“Those numbers are obviously not in because retailers are in the process now of looking at their inventories,” he said.

Jay Van Rein, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento, said the state has applied the first two of at least 12 organic treatments to eradicate the fruit fly in the 28-square-mile core of the quarantine area.

Beyond that, growers themselves will be responsible for treating trees, he said. The soonest growers following the plan can harvest is April. Still, some growers haven’t started the treatments yet and more likely will begin harvest in early summer, he said.

Van Rein said there was a quarantine a couple of years ago in Fallbrook. Scientists believe that infestations are introduced by people from urban areas traveling and carrying the flies unintentionally, he said.