September rains slowed harvest of Mexican avocados, but growers and shippers expect solid volumes for shipment to the U.S., with good sizing.
September rains slowed harvest of Mexican avocados, but growers and shippers expect solid volumes for shipment to the U.S., with good sizing.

Although rains in September may have slowed harvest during the early part of the Mexican avocado season, volumes have ramped up, and importers and suppliers reported a consistent, steady supply in mid-October.

“Rains had an impact on the shippers, but now that we’re getting more into the better weather, the shipments are getting steady, and we expect them to be very steady and very consistent,” said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif.

Gahl Crane, director of avocado sales for Vernon, Calif.-based Green Earth Produce, had a similar perspective and said the bumps caused by the September rains since have smoothed out.

“The Mexican avocado industry — like any machine — once it gets going into harvest, it’s very hard to stop or slow down save a major weather issue or holiday period,” he said.

The 2012-13 season saw record shipments to the U.S., and Mexican avocado growers and exporters expect a similar supply for the 2013-14 season that started July 1.

The Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico projects U.S. shipments of about 1.14 billion pounds this season, compared to about 1.13 billion pounds last season.

But Dave Fausset, sales/category manager for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., said he expects a different crop flow this season compared to last, partly because of California’s production.

Last year, Mexican growers and exporters knew California expected a larger-than-typical 2013 crop, so they were a bit more aggressive in picking on the early end, Fausset said.

Heading into 2014, Mexican growers and exporters know California expects a shorter crop, “so they don’t have to harvest at such an aggressive pace,” he said.

“They’re really looking at ways to not let prices collapse like last year. This year, I believe the market is going to be very even,” Fausset said.

Sizing also appears good, with a heavy volume of 48s and some smaller and larger fruit on either end,” Fausset said.

“There’s not a lot of small fruit,” he said. “Right now, there’s just a little bit of everything. Forty-eights are definitely the key driver, with 40%-45% packout. That’s a key size for the industry.”

Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., said the amount of fruit imported into the U.S. depends partly on California’s crop and, to a lesser extent, crops in Peru and Chile.

“California doesn’t look like it has the crop it did in 2013, which should draw more fruit out of Mexico,” he said.

Adding to the potential for greater imports is an increase in the number of Mexico groves certified to ship to the U.S., Wedin said.

Under a protocol developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Mexican counterpart, avocado groves must be inspected regularly and found free of five pests before their fruit can enter the U.S.