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Demand for avocados in U.S. market continues to climb as more fruit enters the market

A record 1.5 billion pounds of avocados were consumed in the United States in 2012, reflecting an ongoing dramatic increase in demand. So far, 2013 is on track to eclipse that record.

"It seems we are going to be well over last year's numbers" for 2013, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board. He expects "definitely double digit growth."

006-GlobalAvo-OutlookAvocados on the tree. In the United States, a record volume of fruit is expected to be consumed in 2013.Major sources of avocados in the U.S. market are Mexico, by far the largest, followed by California, Chile and Peru.

Mexico, which projected a record crop of more than 900 million pounds in 2012-13, was looking at another large crop for 2013-14. As of July, the old crop was wrapping up and the new Flora Loca crop, a light off-bloom crop before the start of the main new crop, had begun. Importers expected Mexico's volume to begin increasing around mid-August and to be in full swing by the end of September.

California's expected crop size for the year is around 500 million pounds, up from about 460 million pounds in 2012. Because of the larger crop, the California season was expected to run later than last year, continuing at peak volume through August and into September, with shipments continuing into November.

Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the California Avocado Commission, told The Produce News she expected about 82 million pounds of California fruit to be marketed from September through November.

Peru, a relative newcomer to the U.S. market, was at peak season in July and expected to ship some 40 million to 45 million pounds of fruit to the U.S., with arrivals continuing into September. That number could double for 2014.

Chilean imports were down in 2012-13 but are expected to be up again in 2013-14 on a larger crop, with early arrivals expected in September and possibly as early as late August. The Chilean program will continue through March.

Aggregate weekly avocado shipments in the U.S. this year have reached as high as 40 million pounds, a number that seemed almost unimaginable just a few short years ago, and now when weekly shipments drop to 33 million pounds during peak season, it doesn't keep pace with demand, according to Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing at Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA.

"We expect the California crop to go well into October" this year, said Doug Meyer, vice president of sales and marketing at West Pak Avocado Inc. in Murrieta, CA. "Currently, we are right in the middle of the peak harvesting and packing window" for California fruit. He expected supplies from California to be available "well into October."

U.S. distribution of new crop Mexican fruit has begun, he said. "September will be the time that we see increasing supply from Mexico." By then, Peru should be "out of the equation" but "we will see the Chilean crop" arriving about that time. By October, "we can count on increasing supplies each week as we move through October and then on into the winter months."

"We see a real increase in demand" over the past two years, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc. in Riverside, CA. "How I measure that is by the volume moving into the marketplace and relative price levels."

Just last year, which was a record year, the market was "absorbing 28 to 30 million pounds at equilibrium," Thomas said. "Now we feel the market can absorb more than 35, maybe even 39 million pounds, at times of the year, at equilibrium."

Avocado demand is increasing not only in the United States but globally, according to Rankin McDaniel, president of McDaniel Fruit Co. in Fallbrook, CA. "Demand has been going up in every consuming country," including the countries where the avocados are being produced. As a result, "we have seen a very good market that is developing very well to the point where, in the U.S., 30 million pounds a week is becoming a benchmark number, up significantly" from 15 million to 20 million pounds weekly just five years ago.

"One of the exciting things about the avocado industry here in the United States is the marketing programs that are behind this fruit," said West Pak's Doug Meyer. Whether the avocados are from California, Mexico, Chile or Peru, "we have marketing associations" for each of those sources of supply "that are working very hard in the marketplace, both at the trade level to customers — the wholesalers, the retailers, the foodservice distributors — [and] also the consumer level" promoting the many uses of avocados and their nutritional benefits. The have also been providing promotional support to the trade "to keep people using avocados and eating more of them. It has been a phenomenal, and it continues to be."