Fall brings some changes for the avocado industry, with California winding down and Mexico, Chile and Peru gearing up.
California had a short crop this year and is ending the season earlier than usual, but the industry is looking to imports to fill the gap.
After producing 470 million pounds of avocados last year, California is estimated to produce just 253 million pounds this season, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing, California Avocado Commission, Irvine.
The crops in Chile and Mexico are expected to be larger and could help make up for the smaller California crop, said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing, Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.
Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., also expects to see an increase in volumes of avocados from Chile and Mexico as compared to last year, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing.
However, with expanding internal markets for avocados in Chile and Mexico, the volumes of avocados available for export is limited, and North American import volume is more variable, Christou said.
The industry will rely on Chile at least until September, when the Mexican crop has more volume, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing, Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
Giumarra Agricom International, Escondido, Calif., anticipates wrapping up its California program by Labor Day and filling its supply with avocados from Mexico and Chile, said Chris Henry, director of sales and marketing.
The strength of Mexico’s season will determine whether there are promotable volumes this fall, said James Milne, category director, citrus and avocados, The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia.
This year’s addition of Peruvian avocados is an interesting “little twist” for the market, Wileman said.
Peruvian avocados shipped to the U.S. this summer and fall will be end-of-season, mature fruit that will help fill the void left by California’s early exit, he said.
Milne thinks Peruvian imports will help some, but said it was not yet clear in late July just how much volume might be shipped to the U.S.
With Peruvian avocados adding volume, Christou said he expected avocado prices to decline from July’s high levels.
On Aug. 9, size 48 California hass avocados packed in two-layer cartons were priced at $54-56 at the Los Angeles terminal market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. A year earlier, prices for the size 48 hass avocados in two-layer cartons were at $29-31 in Los Angeles.
Chile’s domestic avocado market has had high prices, making it tempting for producers to sell on the domestic market instead of exporting, Milne said. He said he expects a good season for Chilean producers.
The Chilean Avocado Importers Association, Aptos, Calif., expects shipments of avocados from Chile to reach 170 million pounds this season, said Maggie Bezart, marketing director. That’s an increase of about 25% as compared to last season, she said. The first containers of Chilean avocados arrived in late July. Bezart said Chile’s industry was expected to send more volume beginning in mid-August to help increase U.S. volume.
Chilean avocado promotions typically kick off during Labor Day weekend, Bezart said.
“This is an important message for us,” Bezart said. “To have the trade think of Chile beginning when California is finished, typically with the Labor Day holiday.”
Promotable volumes should be available in September, with peak volumes from October to February.
The volume of Mexican avocados imported to the U.S. this season (July 1 through June 20, 2012) is expected to be about 9% greater than last year’s volume, said Emiliano Escobedo, Los Angeles marketing director, Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Associations of Michoacán. Last season, 645 million pounds were shipped from Mexico to the U.S.; this season’s total is expected to be 680 million pounds.
The increase in shipments is due to an increase in production resulting from favorable weather conditions, as well as an increase in the number of acres in Mexico that are certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Escobedo said.
He said about 55% of Mexico’s avocado acreage is certified for exporting to the U.S. With nearly half the acreage not yet certified, there is a lot of opportunity for growth in U.S. imports of Mexican avocados.
Since the beginning of Mexico’s avocado season in July, avocados from Mexico are subject to a new and tighter dry-matter-testing control program, Escobedo said.
The measurement of dry matter is a measure of the fruit’s quality. The Mexican avocado industry implemented stricter requirements during the early part of this season to ensure better quality avocados for exports to the U.S.
Initial testing shows an increase in the average dry matter amount of avocados being shipped to the U.S. this season, Escobedo said.
The new program also has enforcement measures to encourage Mexican growers to comply.
“It’s going to be a vigorous inspection with high incentive to abide by it,” he said.
Overall hass avocado volume to be marketed in the U.S. during the 2011 calendar year is expected to be about 1.15 billion pounds, said Jose Luis Obregon, managing director, Hass Avocado Board, Irvine, Calif.
Wedin said it would probably be October or November before total avocado supplies are comparable to the volumes available in the U.S. market last year.
“We’re going through a period of relatively short supply into maybe a few months of more adequate supply,” said Dana Thomas, president and chief executive officer, Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif. “Not a surplus or a glut, but more volume for promotions.”
Wileman said he expects a stable market this fall, with some opportunities for promotions.