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As California avocado crop winds down, Mexico gearing up to fill demand

With a total crop volume at only 60 percent of a year ago, the California avocado season is winding down as Mexico gears up to fill demand.

Ron Araiza, director of sales for Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA, told The Produce News Aug. 20 that California was expected to send around 6 million cartons of fruit to market this week and reduce its volume by around 1 million cartons per week for the next several weeks. That means California would send around 4 million cartons to market during the Labor Day week of Sept. 1.

That’s a far cry from the typical demand of about 35 million cartons per week.

“During September, we [avocado shippers] are going to be looking to Mexico to provide 25 [million] to 28 million cartons per week,” he said.

The total California crop is expected to come in somewhere around 300 million pounds when all is said and done, which is 40 percent less than last year’s volume of close to 500 million pounds.

Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp. in Escondido, CA, said that by mid-August, California growers were at about 273 million pounds. He anticipated shipments throughout September, albeit at a relatively low level.

“Three hundred million is possible,” he said. “We may get there.”

Like most of the industry, Henry Avocado sources from many different countries of origin and attempts to fill the orders of its customers relatively seamlessly. While there is a market price differential depending upon origin, the key is simply to fill demand.

As August turns into September, there will still be some Peruvian avocados being sold from inventory and Chile is expected to have a very limited volume of avocados for sale within the United States by early September.

Henry said Mexico will supply most of the country, while most shipments of California avocados will stay close to home to fill the Golden State’s cavernous demand for the fruit.

One California area gearing up for that September time slot is the Morro Bay avocado deal from California’s Central Coast, marketed under that name. Over the last couple of years, growers in California’s furthest avocado-producing region have been creating a niche market for their fruit, which they claim has superior taste because climatic conditions require the fruit to stay on the tree almost twice as long as other areas.

Jim Shanley of Shanley Farms in Morro Bay, CA, said a couple of growers are out of the deal this year because of drought issues, but he has added two other growers and should have volume similar to what the deal had last year for the eight-week shipping season. The deal was expected to kick off on Labor Day and last through October.

“It will be similar to last year, but we won’t be able to grow it this year,” he said.

Shanley is expecting get a premium for that fruit in the high $30s. In fact, in mid-August California fruit was selling for top dollar in the high $30s. Peruvian fruit was at least $10 less per carton than that, and Mexican avocados were somewhere in between, with that price dependent on the origin of the fruit.

As September unfolds, Mexican growers will be shipping from several different blooms depending upon the location of the trees where the crop is harvested. By the end of September, the new crop for the new season will be on the market.

Chile, which comes into the U.S. market during the fall months, is expected to have less volume this year than last, according to Henry. He said the Chilean drought is still affecting volume and Chilean shippers have several options for their fruit, including Europe and other South American countries. They are no longer so heavily dependent on the U.S. market.

While promotions from the California avocado industry will wind down after Labor Day, Mexico is increasing its visibility in the marketplace. Its first promotion of the season is sports-themed and designed to kick off the U.S. football season as well as the Mexican avocado season.