Chilean hass avocados are one of three major components in a growing U.S. market for the fruit.

A fourth — Peru — may be joining the market fairly soon, Chilean shippers and industry leaders say.

“I see Peru increasing significantly its presence in the international trade, up from their 50,000 tons, by probably doubling in a period of three to four years, if we consider that Peru has about 10,000 acres of hass planted and a large percentage in young orchards,” Manuel Jose Alcaino, president of Santiago, Chile-based Decofrut SA.

In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture signed off on an agreement to allow Peru to ship hass avocados into the U.S., beginning this year.

Shipments likely won’t begin in earnest until next year, after extensive phytosanitary tests are concluded, industry leaders said.

An influx of Peruvian fruit won’t interfere with Chilean shipments, they said.

“Their season will have more of an effect on California, said Maggie Bezart, marketing director of the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association. “It’s my understanding that the partners in Peru are California growers. They’re going to be filling a gap.”

That gap likely will be filled in May, June and July, said Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Irvine, Calif.-based Hass Avocado Board.

“They’re still doing some tests to make sure when they do come they can come with arrivals,” Obregon said. “They’ll be here during the summer months at the beginning with relatively low volumes. They will be a complement for the summer fruit that’s already in the country.”

Is there room for Peru?

Obregon said yes.

“Sometimes, in the summer months, there’s a lack of fruit, especially if California has a smaller crop,” he said. “They will be an important player and have a good future here.”

The U.S. market still has plenty of regions to be developed by avocado marketers, Obregon said.

“The country is so big and everyone has its own market and area,” he said. “There’s still plenty of growth within the category. There’s a lot of room out there and a lot of demand to come.

“You’re talking about 40 million pounds coming from Peru in a 10-week window from May, June and July. That’s roughly equal to a two-week supply of our normal volume. That will be absorbed by the market.”

When shipments come remains an unanswered question, Obregon noted.

“That’s up to their industry,” he said. “They’re doing some testing.”

Obregon added that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection agency had recently completed a “working plan” with its Peruvian equivalent, Servicio Nacional de Sanidad Agraria del Peru.

“Once they figure it out, that’s when they’ll come,” Obregon said. “They’re still in the process.”

Expect to see Peru playing a role in the U.S. market by the summer of 2011, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif.

“I don’t think this year you’ll see a lot of fruit from Peru in the U.S. market for two reasons,” Thomas said.

“One is, I think they’re still experimenting with the protocol. The second reason is, it’s a big California crop. I think the spring and summer of 2011, with a lower California crop that we’re anticipating, you can see some volume of Peruvian fruit coming in. I think it’s too early to tell how much.”

Alcaino said nobody involved in the Chilean deal should perceive Peru as a threat.

“That is greatly perceived as good complement of the Chilean crop, rather than a threat, due to its early finish coinciding with the start of the Chilean harvest,” he said.

Peru will play a key role in the U.S., eventually, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc.

“The Peruvian industry is still very young,” he said. “It would be the fourth largest. It is going through quite a bit of growth, so it eventually will increase the amount of summer fruit in the market, when demand is the greatest and Chile and Mexico are sort of in their off-season.”