The prime import players in the U.S. avocado market — Mexico and Chile — sometimes have a little extra competition from producers in New Zealand and may soon have to compete with Peru.
New Zealand is a fringe participant, marketing agents said, often depending on economic factors.
“Unfortunately, because of shipping costs they have alternative markets in Australia and Asia, and their volume to the U.S. has been very limited,” said Avi Crane, president of Prime Produce International LLC, Orange, Calif.
“So we had a program with growers, but we can’t compete with the prices they get from other destinations. But it’s high-quality fruit, also similar to the Dominican and Mexican deal. It’s volcanic soil. It’s rainforest. It’s a beautiful piece of fruit, very tasty. But they have alternatives, so we haven’t seen a lot in the last couple of years.”
Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board, said New Zealand’s participation in the U.S. market is generally limited.
“It could be a player, but they have ups and downs in production,” Obregon said. “They’re sometimes here during the fall and, when they are, they’re good partners.”
There aren’t any quality issues with New Zealand fruit, when it makes it to the U.S., said Ron Araiza, sales director for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.
“It’s a great, great product,” he said. “The only reason we didn’t see them last year is the demand out of Australia and the lighter crop out of New Zealand made it not practical for New Zealand to ship to the U.S.”
There may be some opportunities for New Zealand fruit to reach U.S. shores this year, Araiza said.
“With a much larger crop, there may be an opportunity for New Zealand to come in in October,” he said. “We’re still not certain New Zealand will be coming to the U.S. this year, but it’s a possibility.”
Peru also represents a waiting game, marketers noted.
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published a proposed rule that would add Peru to the list of countries permitted to ship hass avocados to the U.S.
The government accepted comments on the rule until March, but by midsummer the rule still had not been enacted.
According to some estimates, Peruvian avocado shipments could add as much as 10% — Peruvian Avocado Growers Association estimates about 19,000 metric tons — to the U.S. import volume just in the first year.
“They have the ability to become a major player,” Obregon said. “Their plantings are increasing. Their production is increasing. They have water. They have land. They will become important players in the U.S.”