(UPDATED COVERAGE, 3:15 p.m.) Mission Produce Inc. is expanding its Toronto ripening and distribution facility and has opened a new avocado packinghouse near Zamora, Mexico.

Its Toronto Ripe Center, leased from Ippolito Group, is increasing its square footage from 6,000 to about 28,000 and doubling ripening capacity from 72 to 144 pallet spaces. Cooling storage is being upgrade to more than 400 pallet spaces.

Ippolito Group handles Canadian distribution for Mission Produce, whose staff handles operations at the center.

The Oxnard, Calif.-based grower-shipper has been in Canada for three years.

“We had another record year and demand for avocados is still strong,” said Bill Tarleton, director of marketing communications. “We’re trying to vertically integrate ourselves in numerous places other than just California and Mexico. We’ve got a lot of things going on internationally right now.

“It’s just a situation where we need more space, more production and more fruit to handle our existing customers and any possible new ones,” he said. “That goes across the board for the U.S. and Canada.”

The Mexico packinghouse, dubbed Mission La Cantera, offers access to fruit production too far from the established site in Uruapan, including parts of Jalisco.

Jalisco avocados are not allowed into the U.S., but Mission Produce anticipates that will change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a request from the Mexican government to allow fruit from Jalisco for import into the U.S.

“It’s just our gut feeling,” Tarleton said. “It’s the same phytosanitary reasons that went into getting Uruapan fruit into the U.S. years ago. There’s a need to examine any pest or disease issues, which pretty much all went smoothly in the past and we’re anticipating it will again in the future. The Jalisco area is growing good fruit and we’d like to take advantage of it.”

Tarleton declined to forecast when Jalisco avocados may be let in, but expects it in the near future.

The Zamora site, near avocados grown in that region, can pack about 300 pallets daily. It has 28,000 square feet and the company plans to more than double that, as well as increase cold storage from 100 to 500 pallets. Bagging capabilities are planned for the spring.

Besides avocados, Mission Produce’s other products include asparagus. The new Mexico packinghouse handles only avocados. The Canadian site can accommodate both avocados and asparagus.