Florida avocado growers expect higher volume

05/27/2011 10:19:00 AM
Dan Gailbraith

Opening season prices often start as high as $22 a flat. Prices typically quickly fall to the mid- to high teens, where they remain for a couple of weeks. July volume, however, can see prices fall into the single digits.

In late June last season, the earliest the U.S. Department of Agriculture began reporting Florida avocado prices, one-layer flats sold for $19. By early to mid-July, the USDA reported $12 to $13 per flat. In late July and early August, flats of 8-9s of donnie and simmonds varieties sold for $6 and 10-12s for $6.50 to $7. By late November, flats of 8-9s sold for $7 with 10-12s fetching $7 to $7.50, according to the USDA.

With its 2,500 acres of its own and other growers’ acreage, Miami-based M&M Farm Inc. expects to produce 200,000 bushels, said Manny Hevia Jr., secretary-treasurer.

M&M plans to begin harvesting in late May with the arue variety.

“So far, things look very good,” Hevia said in mid-May. “The trees are healthy, strong and are setting more fruit. This season should be a lot better than the last couple of seasons. We should have some nice volumes to be able to give the supermarkets. We should have some great-tasting product.”

J&C Tropicals, Miami, has doubled its acreage to 100 acres, said Jeanette Rodriguez, vice president of marketing.

J&C’s owners have high expectations for this season, Rodriguez said.

“We are expecting a record-breaking season,” she said in mid-May. “Production is expected to be high, and we should see excellent quality. We are expecting great fruit this year.”

Rodriguez said last season went surprisingly well and that J&C saw success with it despite the cold.

However, industry members remain concerned about the spread of the laurel wilt disease, a fungus that destroys red bay and avocado trees. The redbay ambrosia beetle, which transports the disease, has been spotted close to avocado groves.

“As long as we keep this beetle and hurricanes away from us, we should be pretty happy people,” said Peter Schnebly, co-owner and chief executive officer of Fresh King Inc.

Schnebly expects mid-June to be the earliest for any type of normal fruit volume hitting the market, he said.


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