(Sept. 29) Importers of Mexican avocados said decreased prices and a larger Chilean crop will give them a cautious approach as the six-month import season kicks off on Oct. 15.

Hass shippers in the Mexican state of Michoacan, however, are ready to compete with Chile and expect to ship at least 10% more fruit this season, starting with 130 containers (5.2 million pounds) of avocados during the first week.

“Chile has a 20% larger crop this year, and the prices have been very much depressed throughout the summer, but Mexico is very competitive, and our production costs are competitive,” said Salvador Escobedo, U.S. market representative for the Michoacan Avocado Producer and Exporting Packer Association, (APEAM), the grower-shipper export organization.

“We definitely think we can compete against Chile,” Escobedo said. “We’re ready to send 130 containers the first week, and we think the market can absorb them.”

California’s season is nearing an end, and shippers have switched to Chilean fruit to keep supplies steady.

On Sept. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported f.o.b.s of two-layer cartons of Chilean hass at $24.25-25.25 for 32-36s, $24.25-26.25 for 40s, $25.25-27.25 for 50s, $22.25-24.25 for 60s and $19.25-21.25 for 70s. Cartons of California hass were at $26.25-27.25 for 32s, $29.25 for 36s, $34.25 for 40s and 48s, and $31.25-32.25 for 60s.

At the same time last season, cartons of Chilean avocados were $36.25 on the high end for 36s, 40s, and 50s, and as low as $28.25 for smaller sizes. California’s market was much higher, at $52.25 for 32-48s, $50 for 60s, and 70s $36.25.

Importers said the lower f.o.b.s, although they saw an upswing in September, will bring some uncertainty to Mexico’s role until January, when Chilean shipments decrease.

“It’s really hard for us to say how much fruit will come from Mexico, given the (market is) weak,” said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Prices were in the high teens in August, Wileman said, but prices have crept up as California supplies dwindled. He expects peaks and valleys in f.o.b.s, depending on how much Chilean fruit arrives.

Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing at Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Ana, Calif., said there are defined markets for both Chilean and Mexican avocados, with Chile’s product finding a place in the West and Southwest, and Mexican hass shipping from Denver to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Chilean volumes won’t alter Calavo’s program from Mexico, Wedin said.

Ventura, Calif.-based Fresh Directions International, which sources California fruit from other companies to supplement its Mexican program, will be ready for shipments on Oct. 15, said Mike Browne, president and chief executive officer.

“Clearly, the difference this year from the previous year is the market condition and weaving the Mexican product into the marketplace with an established Chilean presence,” Browne said.

The USDA has yet to release a final announcement on a proposed rule that would expand Mexico’s current Oct. 15-April 15 season to year-round, and allow sales in all the states.

The avocados are currently allowed in 31 states.