Weather, other issues nip avocado industry - The Packer

Weather, other issues nip avocado industry

08/17/2009 03:21:21 PM
Jim Offner

Weather and other woes of last year have come back to haunt California’s avocado industry this year.

“We’re going to be light on volume, if we have anything at all,” Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission, said during the summertime peak.

A short crop was the result of a number of factors that came into play a year earlier, DeLyser said.

“It was partly water-related, partly weather-related and partly fire-related,” she said. “We had less volume, mostly out of the south. Some areas actually got some hail during bloom. We had some scalping of trees because of water reduction in the south.”

Some growers scaled back trees, “scalping them to where they cut them back to a trunk,” DeLyser said.

It will take a couple of years for those trees to come back, she said.

There were heat spells that led to problems, as well, DeLyser noted.

“Timing of some heat that caused drops in the early summer months of last year, a little bit of hail caused damage during bloom,” she said. “And we had fires a year ago in October in too numerous avocado growing areas to mention. That caused some acreage reduction, as well.”

About 95% of California’s avocado production is the hass variety, DeLyser said.

Still, when the final count of the crop is in, production will have reached 200 million pounds, DeLyser said.

But, she said, there will be much more than that in the marketplace, thanks largely to contributions from Mexico, Chile and the Dominican Republic.

“We’re looking at more than 1.2 billion (pounds) in the next couple of years,” she said. “It’s totally within reason to think that within three to five years, the U.S. marketplace will be consuming 1.5 billion, heading towards 2 billion in the years thereafter.”

What fruit was coming through in mid-July was high-quality, said Avi Crane, president of Prime Produce International LLC, Orange, Calif.

“The California crop is going into its peak period, where the fruit is just very tasty,” he said. “The consumer is getting a great product.”

California shippers have been able to find enough supply, in spite of the relatively lean crop in the state, said Rankin McDaniel, owner of McDaniel Fruit Co., Fallbrook, Calif.

“The crop out of California is on the small side this year, and we had challenges getting proper product distribution out there, but we’ve been able to position our Mexican avocado operation to bridge the gaps, if there were any gaps,” McDaniel said. “So, in putting these pieces together, we’ve had a successful avocado marketing season.”

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