Only 10 years ago, a crop of 515 million pounds would have been considered huge for the California avocado industry.
But with consumption growing at least 10% annually, this year’s crop of that amount is a “nice” size and should mean promotable volumes from March through early fall, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the Irvine, Calif.-based California Avocado Commission.
Dana Thomas, president of Bloomington, Calif.-based Index Fresh, which markets under the AvoTerra label, agreed.
“That (515 million) is not a record by any means,” he said. “When you take it in the overall context of how the market has grown and demand has increased, it’s not what a 515 million crop was 10 years ago. So the bigger crop will provide opportunities, more than anything else.”
The 2011-12 crop ended up at 460 million pounds, and the record, set in 2005-06, was 600 million pounds.
At the same time, per-capita consumption has continued to rise, hitting 4.6 pounds per person in 2011-12, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economics Research Service. That’s more than double what it was in 2000-01.
Avocados typically are alternate bearing, producing a heavier crop one year followed by a lighter one the next. With last year’s crop also being considered fairly large, DeLyser said it’s a bit surprising that this year’s crop is even larger.
But she pointed to better cultural practices for much of the volume moderation.
Growers, for example, have found if they pick some of the crop by April, it reduces stress on the trees before bloom. The result is better fruit set, which is especially important during a light year.
Growers and packers were picking limited quantities in February, but they expected harvest to pick up in March.
In mid-February, Bruce Dowhan, vice president and general manager of Giumarra Agricom LLC, Escondido, Calif., said the fruit on the trees appears to be a bit smaller than the industry is accustomed to at that time of year. However, he said that’s expected, with the overall size of the crop and the number of fruit per tree.
Scott Bauwens, director of sourcing for Murrieta, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado Inc., said individual fruit size was typical for mid-February, especially considering the cold and relatively dry winter.
But he said he expected fruit size to increase once overnight temperatures began to rise and the Southern California production areas received a bit more rainfall.