California volumes should ramp up in April to take full advantage of Cinco de Mayo, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
“By Cinco, production will be going full-bore,” she said. “There will be a wide range of sizes, with tremendous promotional opportunities.”
Sizing has been slow to come on this season because of cool weather and limited rainfall, DeLyser said, but warmer temperatures in March were accelerating the fruit’s progress.
California expects to ship about 515 million pounds of avocados in 2013, which would make it one of the biggest crops on record, DeLyser said. The commission expects a comparably strong Cinco de Mayo.
About 87.3 million pounds of avocados from all sources are expected to ship in the U.S. this Cinco de Mayo shipping season, the most ever, DeLyser said.
The industry had initially expected to ship about 33 million pounds of avocados per week in the U.S. in the three weeks leading up to Cinco de Mayo, similar to last year, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Irvine-based Hass Avocado Board.
But now the industry expects to ship about 40 million pounds per week, which would be a record, Escobedo said.
“We’ll have strong volumes from Mexico and California, which creates perfect conditions for retailers to promote with confidence,” he said. “A lot of ads will break the Wednesday before.”
Demand will be strong not only at retail but also at foodservice, mostly among independents but also at some chains, Escobedo said.
Escobedo reported excellent quality from both Mexico and California and expected a wide range of sizes for holiday promotions.
The fact that Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday this year dovetails perfectly with the commission’s campaign to promote avocados as a breakfast item, DeLyser said.
For this year’s holiday, the commission’s celebrity chefs, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, will highlight Sunday brunch items featuring avocados, she said.
On March 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $31.25-32.25 for two-layer cartons of hass 48s from Mexico, up from $30.25-31.25 last year at the same time.
Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Central American Produce will be shipping mangoes from Mexico and Guatemala for Cinco de Mayo, said Sabine Henry, saleswoman.
Central American was reporting strong retail interest in promotions in late March, with some retailers set to run ads for close to three weeks in the runup to Cinco, Henry said.
Now if the fruit would just size up.
“There will be plenty of fruit, but mainly small fruit,” she said. “The projections are that the size will increase, but I have my doubts. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
The USDA reported prices of $6-6.50 for one-layer flats of haden 6-8s from Mexico, up from $5.50-6 last year.
Hot pepper prices were higher than last year heading into Cinco de Mayo. The USDA reported prices of 70 cents per pound for large jalapenos and anaheims from Mexico, up from 30 to 45 cents per pound last year.
Poblanos and serranos were selling for 50 cents per pound, up from 30 to 45 cents per pound.