With late summer and early fall production from other countries now done, Mexico’s avocado production is in full stride as it works to provide nearly all U.S. supplies in late autumn.
“Mexico is the big dog now at this time of year,” said Dave Fausset, sales and category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
Mexico will supply up to 95% of all avocados in the U.S. until at least February, when California production starts, Fausset said.
“They’re going to be heavily relied on through the holidays and heading into the Super Bowl,” Fausset said.
Mexico ships year round, but the October-February season is seen as the country’s peak production period.
Shipments were ample in the early going, Fausset said.
“Currently, we’re into the new crop, and maturity levels are a little on the lower end now because they’re going to have to fill in for the (smaller) California crop,” he said.
Rain has held back maturity levels, but recent conditions have been more optimistic, Fausset said.
“We’re looking forward to getting a little drier weather,” he said.
Mexico shipped more than 1 billion pounds into the U.S. in the 2013-14 season, and it could increase volumes for the upcoming year by 10% to 15%, Fausset said.
“Some said 1.4 billion pounds, which will be the most ever shipped out of Mexico,” he said.
Increasing demand will ensure the extra volumes are used, he said.
“We’re going to need all that fruit,” Fausset said.
Prices in the early part of the season were “a little unstable” but were likely to settle, said Patrick Lucy, salesman with Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc.
“The size curve seems heavy toward smaller sizes now, probably because of the amount of rain down there, but we expect when it does start to dry out in the next couple of months, we’ll start to see some big fruit,” he said.
The predominant sizes are in the 60-70 range, with 40s and larger scarcer, Lucy said.
U.S. retailers lean heavily toward sizes 48-60, with many “big-box” stores buying 40s, Lucy said.
As of Oct. 20, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two-layer cartons of hass avocados from Mexico were priced at $32.25-34.25 for sizes 32, 36, 40 and 48; $23.25-25.25 for size 60; $19.25-23.25 for size 70; and $18.25-21.25 for size 84.
A year earlier, the same product was $37.25-38.25 for sizes 32, 36 and 40; $30.25-32.25 for size 48; $25.25-26.25 for size 60; $23.25-25.25 for size 70; and $19.25-22.25 for size 84.
“Prices have been somewhat higher and we’ll see where it settles in as we go forward,” said Phil Henry, president of Escondido, Calif.-based Henry Avocado Corp.
Finding promotable volumes should be no problem, said Gary Caloroso, marketing director with Giumarra Agricom and Giumarra Borquez, Escondido, Calif.
“Mexico will continue to ship promotable avocado supplies into the U.S., so it’s a great time for retailers, restaurant chains and other customers to promote avocados to consumers,” he said.
Quality has been good, said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets product under the Melissa’s brand.
“The industry overall is expecting to have good supplies, the dry matter is up and the fruit is eating great,” he said.
Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing with Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., said growers know what consumers want.
“Mexico deserves a lot of credit, making sure that they don’t pick immature fruit,” he said.
“It’s going to be quite exciting because the crop is going to be in the range of 30% larger for the U.S. than last year.”
That’s on top of a 5% volume increase a year ago, Wedin said.
He said that’s because of a strong crop and more growers being certified.
Riverside, Calif.-based Index Fresh Inc. anticipates shipping about 5.5 million cartons of Mexican avocados, said Giovanni Cavaletto, vice president of operations.
“It’s been steady, incremental growth,” he said.
With shipments from Mexico combined with California, Peru and Chile, the U.S. market will receive more than 2 billion pounds of hass avocados for the first time in 2015, Cavaletto said.
Mexico will account for two-thirds of that, he said.
Whatever the final total is, there will be plenty of fruit to promote, Henry said.
“The promotional board for Mexico has a very good ad and promotional campaign, and they’re off and running with that,” he said.