Importers report excellent quality and large sizes from Peru this summer.
As of mid-June, about 125 million pounds of Peruvian avocados are expected to ship in the U.S. in 2014, up from about 53 million pounds in 2013.
It’s also up from earlier estimates of 110 million to 120 million pounds, said Ron Araiza, vice president of sales for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce.
So much more product is coming in this summer, Araiza said, that processing was taking longer at some ports because of the sheer volume, though he characterized that problem as “minor.”
Mission began shipping Peruvian avocados at the end of May, Araiza said.
The majority of product has been shipping east of the Mississippi, but some markets in the west also have been open to Peruvian product thus far this season, Araiza said.
“The size profile fits nicely to match the size, or rather lack of size, in California and Mexico,” he said. “There’s an abundance of 40s and larger from Peru.”
Fruit from California and Mexico in June, by contrast, tilted more towards 48s and smaller.
Even some retailers in California looking for bigger avocados were taking Peruvian fruit in June, Araiza said. Chicago and other Midwestern markets also were pulling well, though the majority of fruit was still shipping on the Eastern seaboard and in the southeast, he said.
Araiza added that there were plenty of 48s from Peru to supply its Eastern customer base.
Fruit is likely big in Peru now because trees are younger, Araiza said. As they mature, sizes should start to more closely resemble the size profiles of avocados shipping from Mexico and California, he said.
Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif., began bringing in Peruvian avocados at the end of May, said president and CEO Dana Thomas.
“We began ramping up in June and are about hitting our stride,” Thomas said June 19. “We anticipate going with fairly decent volumes through July.”
Index Fresh’s deal will likely begin tapering off in August before finishing in late August or early September.
The company is importing Peruvian fruit through Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia, Thomas said.
Peruvian avocado quality is excellent, he said.
“It has high maturity, it’s ripening well and eating well.”
Up to 40% of Index Fresh’s Peruvian fruit is pre-conditioned in California, Texas or Philadelphia before it ships, Thomas said. That percentage is lower than the percentage for avocados from other growing areas.
“At this point a lot of Peruvian fruit goes to retail, and foodservice does more pre-conditioned.”
Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., is a partner in 1,100 acres of production in Peru, said Bob Lucy, partner. Most of it ships in the U.S. under the Del Rey label.
Most of the company’s Peruvian product is shipping east of the Mississippi this year, Lucy said.
“It allows California freer access to the West Coast. So far, it’s going pretty well.”
As much as 50% of avocados from Peru can be concentrated in large sizes like 32s and 36s, compared to percentages in the teens for those size from Mexico, California and Chile.
Fruit size should come down in coming years as Peruvian trees mature, Lucy said.
“Our trees are seven and eight years old, so we’ll see the size switch more quickly” than growers with younger trees will, he said.
For now, Peru’s main business still lies overseas, said Xavier Equihua, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Peruvian Avocado Commission.
“Peru is the largest shipper to Europe — what Mexico is to the U.S., Peru is to Europe,” Equihua said.
But the balance is quickly changing, he said, and a big marketing push from the commission this summer will no doubt accelerate that.
“Peru continues to become bigger in the U.S., to the point where Peru is the biggest exporter to the U.S. in the summer,” Equihua said.
Peruvian shippers expect to ship much more volume to the Midwest and the West this summer, expanding their reach beyond markets east of the Mississippi, he said.
“We’re basically East Coast, but we’re a good complement when California isn’t producing as much.”