Chilean avocados are in short supply, but importers said they expect to have bigger volumes in time for Super Bowl celebrations.
This summer’s estimate from the Washington, D.C.-based Chilean Avocado Importers Association, of 200 million pounds of Chilean avocados being imported to the U.S. this season, was revised this fall to 100 million to 120 million pounds.
Maggie Bezart, marketing director, said production is down this season because of cold weather and avocados’ alternate bearing cycle. Last season, 300 million pounds were shipped from Chile to the U.S.
Total Chilean avocado export volumes were down by about 60% in early November compared to last season, said James Milne, business development director at Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group. Frost damage reduced crop size, and strong demand in Chile is keeping avocados in the domestic market, he said.
“All avocados are traveling by container, instead of charter, signifying how little fruit is leaving Chile at this point, relatively speaking,” Milne said.
Some of its growers harvest late in the season, so Oppenheimer hopes volumes will increase before the winter holidays.
Despite the decrease in production, Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, Fla., said in early November that Del Monte was still able to supply all its North American customers.
Chilean avocado industry volumes were low, but not the lowest they’ve been this decade, said Gahl Crane, director of avocado sales for Fisher Capespan USA LLC, a division of St. Laurent, Quebec-based Fisher Capespan Inc.
“There’s a lot of talk about how low it is, but demand has increased so much, and the volume coming in is so much less than what is needed,” Crane said.
Crane said more consumers are aware of avocados and are becoming frequent buyers. Increased demand forces growers and packers to continually improve their products. This year’s avocados are good quality, he said.
U.S. consumption of avocados is strong enough that the U.S. remains a good market for Chilean avocados despite the continuing weak value of the dollar, Crane said.
“It’s made growers and exporters think harder about what market they’re going to send their fruit to,” he said. “But it’s still an attractive market.”
California avocados extended into the Chilean season this year. Crane said Fisher Capespan supplies its customers with California-grown avocados through mid-October. He expects the volume of Chilean avocados to increase significantly in November and December, with peak volumes shipping in January, just ahead of the Super Bowl.
“Usually, the peak is November/December, but I think it’ll peak in January,” he said. “I think Chile is going to harvest their fruit so it peaks slightly later than usual.”
This will be the first full season of Chilean avocados for Fisher Capespan. It entered the avocado industry in the middle of last year’s season. Fisher Capespan’s supply this year will be larger because it is participating in the entire Chilean season and because it has increased its exporter and grower base over the past year. Crane said he expects supplies to extend into March.
Fisher Capespan has been receiving Chilean avocados in its Santa Ana, Calif., facility since late August, but volumes were not significant until October. It also ships avocados from Chile to the Eastern U.S. and ripens avocados in several facilities in the U.S.
Crane said he expects next year’s crop to be much larger because avocado crops typically alternate light, then heavy. Shipments likely will start early next year, possibly as early as mid- to late July, he said.