Peru’s first full year of participation in the U.S. market got a mixed reception from rivals. Some observers said Peruvian product filled a useful spring-summer niche, but others said it weighed down returns to California growers.
“So far, it’s disruptive,” said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing with Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.
He said Peru’s participation in the U.S. market needs fine-tuning. Otherwise it will continue to disrupt returns to California growers.
“The product is awfully green and the California product has perfect maturity and flavor, so that’s a disrupting force,” Wedin said, noting that higher-quality California product commands a steeper price.
That’s not to imply Peru can’t be a legitimate and productive player in the U.S. market, Wedin said.
“The bigger view is what kind of season they can experience and how are they going to get the fruit off the trees and to the market in good quality levels. I’m worried about that,” Wedin said.
Small initial crop
Peru received permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ship untreated avocados to the U.S. for the first time in 2011, but approval came well into Peru’s production peak, and shipments were limited to 446 containers, according to the Peruvian Hass Avocado Producers Association, Lima, Peru.
In 2012, the association estimated 2,000 containers of Peruvian product would be shipped to the U.S.
Europe long has been Peru’s chief export destination, with the Netherlands and Spain heading the list of arrivals.
The peak season for Peruvian shipments to the U.S. is roughly June through September, with a heavy marketing emphasis on July and August, according to the Peruvian Avocado Commission.
“Peru will grow as an avocado supplier to the world, and there are a lot of new groves in the country that will start producing in the coming years,” said Adolfo Ochagavía, president of the Chilean Hass Avocado Committee, Santiago, Chile.
Ochagavia said Peru will fill a key gap in the U.S. market and, combined with plentiful supplies from Mexico and California, likely will play a role in pushing back Chilean shipments.
“Our industry has realized that with this new actor, we have to start sending our avocados later and also end our shipments later,” he said.
Mostly young orchards
Peru is a newcomer to avocado production, so it will take some time to figure out how it fits into the U.S. market, said Giovanni Cavaletto, vice president of operations with Bloomington, Calif.-based grower-shipper Index Fresh Inc.
“They have a lot to learn about the U.S., and the U.S. has a lot to learn about the commercial avocado industry,” he said.
Most Peruvian orchards are less than 15 years old, Cavaletto said.
“The flavor reception has been good, but their size curve is larger than any other country,” he said.
With Peru’s late entry into the U.S. a year ago, quality issues cropped up, but this year, the fruit showed much improvement, said Josh Leichter, general manager of Reedley, Calif.-based Pacific Trellis Fruit LLC.
As a participant in the U.S., Peru now is involved in the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board.
“Being the new player, you would expect them to go through a learning curve, but they are very experienced sending fruit to the European market,” said Emiliano Escobedo, the board’s executive director.