Super Bowl avocado supply OK despite quarantine

12/30/2002 12:00:00 AM
Tom Lister

(Dec. 30) SAN DIEGO — Super Bowl XXXVII is still weeks away, but some hometown players already have been sidelined.

The game, scheduled for Jan. 26, traditionally has been one of the best times for consumption of California avocados, second only to Cinco de Mayo.

That alone leads to excitement in the industry. Even more, this season’s game will take place in San Diego, near much of the state’s avocado production at that time of year.

But for this Super Bowl, a large part of San Diego County’s avocado groves, particularly the Valley Center area, will remain under quarantine after the discovery of Mexican fruit flies after Thanksgiving.

The quarantine covers 117 square miles, said Jan DeLyser, vice president of merchandising for the California Avocado Commission, Santa Ana. Roughly 70 million pounds of avocados in the area could be postponed from harvest until at least April, said Dave Culpeper, import/export director for West Pak Avocado, Temecula.

PLENTY TO PROMOTE

Nonetheless, shippers say the industry will have adequate supplies to cover Super Bowl promotions. Chile’s U.S. export season is expanding, and arrivals won’t begin to taper off until late January, Culpeper said. Besides the quarantine issue, many California shippers also have opted to delay harvest to avoid the market conflict with Chile’s heavier volumes.

Promotable volumes also will come from Mexico, now able to export avocados to 31 U.S. states.

In late December, some Southern California shippers were still on the injury list. Cal Flavor Inc., Escondido, has about 95% of its avocados in the quarantine zone.

“We won’t be shipping anything,” said Lloyd Bittner, assistant manager. Avocados in the zone have to be sprayed with malathion, he said. The company has had to lay off some packinghouse employees until it can resume picking.

That would be April at the soonest, but if more fruit flies are discovered, harvest in the quarantine area could be postponed even further, DeLyser said.

FEELING A BIT CHILE

Because of Chile’s ongoing presence in the market, there could be little effect on Super Bowl markets, Culpeper said.

Still, shippers say avocado f.o.b.s could increase once Chile leaves the deal. Then they could dip once California’s quarantined fruit is able to reenter the market. Also, the avocados delayed from harvest in the quarantine zone will have more time to gain sizing, which should result in a larger crop for California than originally estimated.


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