Last year, Southern California had near record rainfall, but as of February, precipitation was about half of normal.
A dry winter can impact the industry in two ways, Wedin said.
“The sizing will more than likely be smaller than we’d like it to be, and the growers’ costs definitely are going to be higher,” he said. That’s because they will have to irrigate with water that is becoming increasingly expensive.
“We do see fairly good size, and we do believe that we’re going to have a great season,” Wedin said. “But it is a little disappointing when you don’t get rain, and you’re in the agricultural business.”
Irrigation never is as good as rain, which does a good job of leeching salts out of the soil, Thomas said.
The impact of a dry year may not be felt for two or three years, he added. It could affect future sets by making the trees less vigorous
Lack of rain also could cause a slower start than usual for the California crop, said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif. But he said quality should be good, and volume should be strong by late March.
At Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, Calif., growers were just starting to get into the fields in mid-February, and partner Bob Lucy expected good production in March and April.
“The crop looks excellent,” he said, and he anticipates a good year for promotions.
“We’re very excited about the programs that the Avocado Commission has set up, and we think it’s going to be a great year for California growers,” he said.