Less volume, good quality expected this year - The Packer

Less volume, good quality expected this year

03/18/2014 02:27:00 PM
Tom Burfield

This year’s California avocado crop should be down significantly from last year, but still there should be plenty of the fruit to go around.

$imgObj.altTextIn 2013, the season ran from March through October, and volume was 505 million pounds, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.

This year, volume should be at its peak from mid- to late April and continue through Labor Day. Volume should be about 300 million pounds.

“The 300 million pounds is more on par with the 10-year average,” DeLyser said.

There should be “a good amount of fruit to work with,” she added. It’s just that the window of availability will be smaller than last year.

This year’s crop will be more of a summer-season crop than last year’s, said Bob Lucy, a partner in Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif.

The season will start slowly, but quality should be excellent, he said, and prices should be strong for growers and good at retail, as well.

Fruit size is larger this year than last year.

“We’re not so concerned about having too many 60s and 70s out there,” Lucy said. “In April, May and June (of 2013), we were flooded with small fruit.”

That’s because there was more fruit on the trees last year and there was a shortage of water.

This year, even though the drought continues, there is less fruit per tree, so there’s a better size curve.

More size 48s, which Lucy called “the premier size for most retailers,” should be available this year.

Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif. started picking the same time this year as last year but will build up its volume more slowly, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and fresh marketing.

He estimated that the company harvested 6% of its crop in March, will harvest up to 10% in April, peak in July and August and ship the equivalent of half of its August volume in September and light volume in October.

Growing conditions were favorable, Wedin said — not too windy and no signs of stirto thrips, which can scar the avocados.

“The fruit looks clean right now,” he said in early March.

Some fruit was ready to go to market, but growers were waiting for prices and sizing to improve.

Calavo should have plenty of fruit available during the heart of the demand period, Wedin said.

The crop from Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif., may be down 30% from last year, said Dana Thomas, president.

Thomas said he was pleased that growers will get better returns than last year, but he added, “It makes it tough sometimes on customers.”

He expected Peru to relieve some of the supply pressure by increasing its shipments over last year.

“We’ll see promotable volume,” he said, “whether it comes from California, Peru or Mexico.”

Peru will be “the big regulator” this season, said Dave Fausset, national sales manager for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Growers in that country are expected to ship more than 100 million cartons to the U.S. this year, up from about 50 million last year, he said.

California growers realize that imports are a reality, and that they have helped grow the market and fuel demand, Thomas said.

California growers are in no hurry to move their crops, Fausset said.

He expected many of them to wait until all of the Chilean fruit is out of the system, which should have occurred by late March. Avocados from Mexico also should start a slow decline after peaking around early March.

As those supplies subside, and sizing of California fruit increase, California growers will become more motivated to pick, Thomas said.

“It will be their turn to come to the party.”



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