California will be a player in the deal longer than usual this fall, and big volumes from Mexico should guarantee strong promotional opportunities for retailers in the coming weeks, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.
In September, California volumes were declining at the rate of about 10% per week, Wedin said. Many years, those rates can be as high as 20-25%. More fruit has meant more opportunities, and more challenges, he said.
“There are a lot of positives, but it puts us in a position where we’ve got to work a lot harder.”
By mid-October, California should be mostly finished for the season, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
In mid- to late September, Mexico was shipping about 16 million pounds of avocados per week and California 10 million pounds, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board.
Chile had expected to have sent about 2 million pounds by the week of Sept. 24, but because of the big California and Mexican crops had sent just 500,000 pounds, Escobedo said.
That late start should mean better quality, as Chilean shippers wait longer for fruit to mature because of the big California and Mexican flora loca, or off bloom, volumes, Escobedo and Wileman said.
Mexican fruit also should be higher-quality because of a later start, Escobedo said.
Despite the big fall volumes, importers should be able to move it all in an orderly fashion, he said.
“Mexico is bringing a lot of product in, but it doesn’t mean they’re dumping fruit,” he said. “They’re providing fruit necessary to meet demand, and demand is phenomenal.”
Prices can be volatile during transition periods, but Wileman expected this season’s switch-over from California to Mexico and Chile to go smoothly, with markets remaining fairly steady.
On Sept. 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $26.25-27.25 for two-layer cartons of hass 48s from California, down from $29.25-30.25 for Mexican 48s at the same time last year.
California avocado supplies will likely be “decent” through October, and some product will still be in the pipeline in November, Wedin said.
Fruit shipping in September was trending toward medium and smaller sizes, which pleased retailers, Wedin said. Sourced largely from the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo growing regions, the quality was outstanding in late September.
In Mexico, meanwhile, importers the week of Sept. 24 were still working through what could be the biggest flora loca crop seen in some time, Wedin said.
“It’s made for good promotions,” he said.
The off-bloom deal will likely wind down the week of Oct. 1, with new-crop Mexican shipments picking up where it left off, Wedin said.
“It looks like a big-sized crop,” he said of the 2012-13 Mexican crop.
Wileman also expected a big Mexican crop. Mission Produce expected to transition from flora local to the regular Mexican crop the week of Oct. 1.