Mexico’s 2012-13 avocado crop should be one of the largest ever, with more than 918 million pounds earmarked for the U.S. — a 20% increase over last year — according to the Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán.

Because California’s crop also was large, there was plenty of U.S. fruit in the pipeline during September and October, which meant there was no need to rush the Mexican harvest.

Mexican fruit was allowed to stay on the trees longer, resulting in higher-quality, more mature fruit, growers said.

Mexico also had a large flora loca — or off-bloom — crop that gave the main crop more time to mature, said Gahl Crane, director of avocado sales for Green Earth Produce, Vernon, Calif.

Most of the company’s growers started transitioning to the new crop in early October, he said. Crane anticipates good-quality fruit.

“There’s been a strong effort by the industry, the growers and importers to make sure only fruit with proper dry weight is harvested,” he said.

The fruit should exceed industry standards, he added.

As of the second week of October, two-thirds of the avocado shipments from Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., were from Mexico, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing.

By the first week of November, that figure should be up to 95%.

Growers were fortunate that they had a large off-bloom crop, Wedin said.

“The off-blooms are always good – they have good flavor and good texture.”

It also meant growers didn’t have to rush into the early new crop, he said.

In past seasons, growers sometimes had problems with their early crop, he said. But that won’t be a concern this year.

“The fruit is coming along really well,” he said Oct. 8.

Fruit size was good, he said, and should remain that way until mid-November. There were plenty of large sizes and not quite enough small ones.

A shortfall of small sizes helps keep the market stable, Wedin said.

Early-season fruit packed for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., also was larger than usual, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing. But he expected the crop to settle down to a more traditional size as the season progressed.

He expected quality to peak during November and December.

Grower-shippers are hopeful prices will remain strong despite the large crop out of Mexico.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest (crops) ever,” Crane said. “Growers know it, packers know it, and importers know it.”

As a result, he said, there’s a big push to “keep demand strong, keep retail prices aggressive and keep promotions happening.”

“Everybody knows that retail promotions are going to be needed to move the crop that’s available for the next six or seven months,” he said.

On Oct. 29, f.o.b. prices for two-layer flats of all sizes of hass avocados from Mexico were $19.25-20.25, except for size 60s, which were going for $18.25-1925 and 84s, which were going for $17.25-18.25, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A year ago, prices ranged from $18.25 for 84s to $33.25 for 32s.

Demand for avocados is consistently growing, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board.

“As long as demand and supply grow at a similar pace, you should see pretty stable prices,” he said.

Quality of the fruit will further strengthen demand, he added.

“The demand is growing,” Wedin said, but it’s necessary to have good-quality, fresh avocados while maintaining good inventory control and harvesting control to capitalize on that demand.

New export area?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a request by Mexico to export avocados from different growing regions to the U.S.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is reviewing a Pest Risk Analysis, pest list and comments from SAGARPA, Mexico’s department of agriculture, said Tanya Espinosa, an APHIS spokeswoman.

If APHIS approves the request, hass avocados from other Mexican states could be exported to the U.S., Espinosa said.

Since Mexican avocados were allowed into the U.S. in 1997, after an eight-decade ban, Michoacan is the only Mexican state approved for export to the U.S.

A record 782 million pounds of avocados from Michoacan were shipped to the U.S. in 2011-12, up from 620 million pounds the season before.