“Why pile it on top of one of California’s biggest weeks? It gives the fruit time to size. You fill your containers a little better.”
When Chilean fruit does arrive in the U.S., it should find a strong market, Wedin said.
“The market had a downward hiccup right at the end of July or first week of August, but it’s recovered from that,” he said.
Maggie Bezart, marketing director for the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association, rated last year as excellent for Chile’s industry.
“The retailers and foodservice operators were fantastic,” she said. “We had more than 32 major retailers. We had tailgating events. We had no problems moving the supply. Like with all growers, returns could have been better with the economy the way it was. But we felt our retail and foodservice partners gave 100%.”
In a big production year, the first Chilean fruit can enter the U.S. market as early as late August; not so, this year, Donovan said.
“The Chilean crop is gong to be off, which is not abnormal for alternate bearing,” Donovan said. “Needless to say, it will be a challenge.”
He said it would not surprise him to see the first Chilean fruit in the U.S. a month or six weeks later than last year.
But he said there’s a bright side.
“It will also stretch into 2011 a little further, and they’ll be trying to take advantage of what looks like light supplies in 2011,” he said. “We’ll be trying to expand and increase our share down there as much as we can. You might call it a bigger piece of a smaller pie.”
In 2009, it was California’s turn, with a take of around 174 million pounds, according to the California Avocado Commission, Irvine.
Shippers say they’ll be ready for whatever arrives, whenever it comes.
“We’ll receive product from three suppliers there, as usual,” said Bob Lucy, co-owner of Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Inc. “They’re projecting volume to be down 30%, but they do have a lot of big fruit. If they see an opportunity and California continues to be short of big fruit, you’ll see Chileans come in with some.”