McDaniel Fruit Co. in Fallbrook, CA, a four-generation family business that began in 1947, anticipates “pretty much a record volume this year” in its California avocado program “given the fact that we have been growing in our grower base, and our own production base has been growing” as well, said President Rankin McDaniel in an interview with The Produce News Feb. 21.
In addition to having more acreage in production this year, McDaniel Fruit, like the industry as a whole, anticipates good yields per acre. For the 2013 California season, “what we see is a larger than average crop that is going to be a very good quality crop,” Mr. McDaniel said.
Because it is a large crop, “the crop is a little slow in sizing,” he said. Fruit sizing will be “delayed a little by several weeks as we move through the year,” compared to a normal sized crop. “But eventually we will get to the point where sizing will be fairly normal on a regular basis.”
Mr. McDaniel said he expects to see good volumes of fruit being harvested by the company and by the industry by the middle of March, which will coincide with industry promotional efforts that start in earnest around the first of April.
“That being said, McDaniel Fruit Co. is starting their California program around the first of March to begin catching up with the harvest” and will be “beginning to harvest and pack very heavily starting around the middle of the month,” he said. Given the large crop size, the harvest “should have started probably a month or a month and a half ago but because of market circumstances, that didn’t happen.”
The size of the crop will provide “a lot of promotional opportunities during the course of the year,” Mr. McDaniel said. McDaniel Fruit Co. will be “actively pursuing promotions with our customer base so we can get increased volume moving through the system” which will be needed to “allow the fruit to be removed from the trees in a consistent and reasonable fashion.”
As of late February, the company was in process of gearing down on offshore operations as it prepared “to gear up into the California program,” he said.
“Chile will be the first one,” he continued. “We are in the final weeks of the Chilean program. No more vessels are arriving. No more product is arriving. We are working through the ending inventory.”
The company’s Mexican avocado program “will be continuing because we will not be ramping up the California programs until mid-March,” but will soon begin winding down, he said. Mexican volume will decline as California volume is increased, and within a few weeks, California fruit will account for around 80 percent of the company’s weekly volume.
McDaniel Fruit has California production from San Diego County “all the way up to the San Luis Obispo growing areas,” Mr. McDaniel said. “We grow in all growing ranges of California. We also have growers in all of the growing regions.”
Mr. McDaniel, whose grandfather founded the family avocado farming operation in 1947, is the third member of the family in the business to bear the name Rankin McDaniel. His son, who goes by J.R., is the fourth.
Other members of the McDaniel family currently involved in the business are his brother Larry Rankin and his niece, Amanda Cameron.
“The actual company developed in steps over the years,” he said. In 1956, an independent packing and marketing organization was formed “because we didn’t want to continue selling the fruit the way we had been selling it before,” and a year or two later the packing and marketing operations and the growing operations were consolidated, and McDaniel Fruit Co. has remained in that format since.
Mr. McDaniel has been at the helm of the company since 1974, first with the title of vice president but “basically calling the shots” and then as president, he said.
“We have been working very hard over the years to develop the ‘Linda Vista’ brand,” he continued. “It is a national brand, and it is a well-recognized brand of the trade.”
This season, “we are going to be pushing very hard on the California origin,” he said.
“We think this is the time of the year when California will have the best quality crop that will be available to our customer base, and we are doing everything we can” to get customers to switch out of off-shore origin avocados and into California origin fruit.