Grower-shippers of Florida avocados say retailers should expect volume to start later than normal during the beginning of this season’s harvesting.

Though Florida growers typically start harvesting their large green-skinned avocados in late May, commercial volumes normally ramp up by mid-June, with promotable volumes usually hitting in early July.

Some say the deal’s volume should be up to one to two weeks later than last year’s start.

Peter Schnebly, co-owner and chief executive officer of Fresh King Inc., Homestead, Fla., said he expects a slow start.

Florida growers expect late avocado crop

Doug Ohlemeier

Grower-shippers of Florida avocados say retailers should expect volume to start later than normal during the beginning of this season’s harvesting.

“This is not a typical year,” he said in early May. “With the two freezes we had this winter, we could be two to three weeks late. We will be fine with the fruit we have but it should be slow with the start of the harvest.”

Schnebly said the harvest’s start depends on the region’s rainy season, which normally begins in late May.

The so-called “June drop,” which typically occurs in late May, when trees drop excess fruit, should provide growers a better idea of what this season will bring, said Peter Leifermann, sales and category manager of Miami-based J&C Tropicals Inc.

“We have had a wet winter relatively speaking, but it’s warming up fast,” he said in early May. “We had record-breaking heat (in early May). We won’t be on schedule but a week late during the first month. From the end of May to the end of June, we should catch up during that first full week of July, when volume always hits.”

While past years have always brought some volume before July, Leifermann said volume should be much less this year.

Before a windstorm struck growing regions in late April, Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, said the industry was hoping for a harvest around 1.1 million bushels, one of the largest crops since 2005.

The storm, which brought winds exceeding 50 mph that blew an undetermined amount of small fruit off trees, could have affected up to a third of growers’ early season shipments

Florida growers expect late avocado crop

Doug Ohlemeier

Avocados shortly after arriving at a Homestead, Fla.-area packinghouse.

Brindle said he expects the crop to be a little less than initially estimated.

Brindle said the storm was a normal storm system that moves through in April but that this one brought stronger than the normal 30 mph winds. It struck during the middle of south Florida’s fruit set period when the deal has many small fruit and flowers that were about to mature.

Brindle said growers would have a better idea of the size of this year’s deal in late May.

“The last three years have gone really well,” he said in early May. “The industry has fully recovered from the hurricanes we had in 2005 and 2006. We are hoping for a really good year.”

Responsible for about half of the deal’s fruit, Brooks expects to ship a little less than 500,000 bushels, higher than the 440,000 bushels it shipped last season.

Alan Flinn, administrator of the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, Homestead, forecast the industry to ship 1 million bushels, up from the 929,000 pounds the industry shipped in 2009-10.

“We should have a very good season this year,” Flinn said in early May. “We have had a good bloom and fruit set so far.”

The 2009-10 season ended shipments in March.

Despite the possible damage to early-season fruit, Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., said the season overall should bring high-quality shipments.

“April has been good on weather, and there hasn’t been a lot of wind except for that storm,” he said in early May.

“We should have really nice clean fruit, and the fruit looks nice. We have taken care of our crops this year.”

New Limeco expects to begin harvesting by early June.

Caram said the harvest should be normal but volume should be a little less at the deal’s start. He said the heaviest harvesting should start after the July Fourth weekend.

While opening season prices can often start as high as $22 a flat by July, prices can fall to $6-7 a flat, said Manny Hevia Jr., secretary-treasurer of M&M Farm Inc., Miami.

Hevia said the trees in early May were flowering after a difficult winter.

“If you look at the trees, it looks like it will be a fantastic season,” he said. “If the fruit on the trees hold, it will be an above-average season. If we have a lot of fruit drop, then it should be a more normal season.”

M&M grows on 2,500 acres of the deal’s estimated 2010-11 season’s 7,500 acres.

Because the groves sent about 200,000 fewer bushels of fruit to the supply chain, Hevia and Caram agreed that growers during the 2009-10 season experienced prices that were slightly above normal that averaged $6.50-7 a flat for the season.