“Growing conditions have been wonderful” for the California avocado crop from Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., says partner Bob Lucy ( Courtesy Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. )

California’s 2020 avocado harvest is expected to reach nearly 400 million pounds — almost an 85% increase over last year, according to the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.

The harvest is expected to continue into September with limited volume extending into October.

Jan DeLyser, the commission’s vice president of marketing, attributed the smaller 2019 crop to severe heat the prior season and to the crop being alternate bearing.

“This year’s crop has benefited both from naturally being a larger crop in the alternate-bearing cycle and excellent growing conditions,” she said.

About 20% of the crop will remain to be harvested in August through October, according to commission estimates.

“There has been a nice range of sizes to meet the demands of customers, and the eating quality has been consistently very good,” DeLyser said.

Prices generally have been good despite some volatility as the supply chain adjusted to the COVID-19 situation, and she said prices should continue to be favorable as long as the supply flow is stable.    

Escondido, Calif.-based Henry Avocado Corp. was winding down its avocado program in the southern part of California but will continue to harvest in the north, said president Phil Henry.

“We project having California fruit available until the harvest is completely finished in California, and we never know exactly when that is going to be,” he said. “But it can easily go through the summer and into the fall.”    

Harvesting will take place in Ventura County, transition to the Santa Barbara/Goleta area and then move northeast into the Santa Maria area and as far as Morro Bay and the San Luis Obispo area, he said.

“It takes longer to grow in the northern area, so they have fruit available later in the summer and into the early fall, depending on the size of the crop,” Henry said.

Eco Farms, Temecula, Calif., has several months to go with its California crop, said Gahl Crane, sales director.

“It’s been a good season,” he said, “with steady volume, great demand and great support from the retail side.”

Strong retail sales made up for the company’s drop in foodservice business that resulted from restaurant closures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

California’s avocado season actually peaks in May and June, before the official start of summer, Crane said.

Peak weeks for California this year were the last week of April and the first week of May, he said.

“May was the biggest month for California avocados.”

The market needed avocados at that time because Peruvian imports were late arriving in the U.S., he said.

Peak sizes for California avocados this summer were 60s and 70s for most growers, he said.

Almost all the 48s have been moving quickly through programs with few left for the spot market, he said.

That meant premium prices for growers on larger fruit.

Although only about 80% or so of the state’s crop remained to be harvested in late July, Fallbrook, Calif.-based Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. had a little more than most suppliers because the company has a lot of late-season fruit, said partner Bob Lucy.

He expected Del Rey to finish its California harvest in mid-October, about a month later than most other shippers.

Quality has been excellent this summer with no really hot weather, Lucy said.

“Growing conditions have been wonderful,” he said.

The size range was about 35%-40% size 48s, 20%-25% size 60s and 10%-15% size 40s.

He described the pack out as “very normal” with 5% to 10% No. 2-grade fruit. 

 

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