Weather, other issues nip avocado industry

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

That’s because demand for the product has doubled in the last 15 years or so, DeLyser said.

“It’s really interesting. I’ve been around awhile, and I can think back to when avocados were considered an exotic tropical item,” she said. “Interestingly enough, if you look at retail dollars for avocados by holiday and event, Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo actually bounce back and forth as to which event is the leading eating occasion for avocados, depending on the year and the supply that’s available.”

This year, for example, about 63.7 million pounds of avocados were consumed during Cinco de Mayo, DeLyser noted.

In 2007, the Super Bowl accounted for 63.1 million pounds of consumption, she said.

Marketing groups are starting to focus on other occasions, now, DeLyser said.

“There are a lot of groups that will be focused on the other windows of opportunities,” she said.

Prices were reaching into the upper $40 range in some cases, some California shippers noted.

Supplies have been adequate at Escondio, Calif.-based Henry Avocado, said Phil Henry, president.

“I think we’ve been adequately supplying customers but certainly haven’t had additional product available to do any aggressive promotions,” Henry said. “The California crop estimate was significantly overstated, so the state has come up with less fruit than anticipated.”

Harvest continued at a steady rate into mid-July, Henry noted.

“But we’re expecting it to decline dramatically in August,” he said. “In early August, we expect arrivals from Chile to be fairly significant in volume.”

The California season has not been without its challenges, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif.

“This year has been a good year, but it’s been a difficult year out of California because of lack of volume,” he said. “It looks like that will remedy itself next year. Chile was a little light but, combined with Mexico, we’ve had promotable volumes.”

Chilean and Mexican fruit will fill any fall and winter gaps that California leaves behind, Thomas said.

“For the fall, we expect to have all three origins in August and heading into September, we’ll have Chilean and Mexican fruit, and that will carry into January or February,” he said.

The California crop will give way in earnest to the imported product before Labor Day, Henry said.

“We should see pretty good arrivals in mid-August, which will allow us to do some pretty good Labor Day promotions with Chilean fruit,” he said.

The California hass harvest for 2009 is projected by the California Avocado Commission as the lowest in 2 decades — 210 millions pounds, compared to the record crop of 600 million in 2006.



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