Faced with a record low 2009 crop of 160 million pounds, the California Avocado Commission, Irvine, has cut staff, restructured and refocused.

“We hope this leaner and meaner commission is positioned to move forward in terms of serving the growers’ interests and doing so efficiently,” commission president Tom Bellamore said.

The commission cut its staff from 18 to 11 employees early this month. A line-by-line review of the budget is continuing, but will not further reduce the staff, Bellamore said.

“I sent a memo to the board of directors today identifying additional budget reductions of $448,000,” he said July 21.
None of the budget cuts affect the commission’s marketing plans for the balance of the 2009 season, Bellamore said.

Before this season, the industry forecast production at 210 million pounds, which was modified in light of the third consecutive year of drought. In 2008, California avocado grower-shippers produced 350 million pounds.
The national recession has not helped the industry.

“The short crop has certainly exacerbated the economic situation of the commission,” Bellamore said, “But the actions that were necessary in terms of personnel and other budget cuts were not solely a function of crop size.”

Bellamore said he is confident he has the staff to be effective for the commission’s growers and members.

“The reduction in force and the consequent reduction in overhead were put in motion so that the commission can continue to focus on its core purpose: marketing,” he said. “We envision a continuing strong marketing effort, continuing to build the California brand and the equity the commission has in that brand.”

There are signs the 2010 deal will be close to the 2008 volumes. There have been no reports of excessive fruit drop since a heat wave hit the state July 18, Bellamore said.

Leaner California Avocado Commission looks to the future