Suppliers of Chilean avocados hope to make up for last year's shortfall in the U.S.

After exporting only 30 million pounds to the U.S. in 2014-15, growers expect to send 100 million pounds here for the 2015-16 season, said Karen Brux, managing director of the San Carlos, Calif.-based Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.

"We'll start shipping when dry matter is strong, and market conditions are supportive," she said.

"We expect to have fruit in the market by September with a strong promotion push starting in late September/early October and continuing through March."

Many retailers appreciate the high quality offered of Chilean avocados, but they want a consistent supply, she said.

"Our goal is to support our customers throughout the Chilean avocado season, from the start to the finish."

Drought conditions in Chile have lowered total avocado volumes over the past five years, she said.

The good news is the drought has not had as strong of an effect on avocados as it has on certain other crops.

"Fortunately, we havent had any frosts this year as in other seasons," Brux said. "Overall, its been a good year."

Brux said weather forecasters expect some relief for Chile this season, which has been experiencing rainfall of less than 50% of normal for the past 10 years.

Some say this year's expected El Niño could be among the strongest ever. Still, it is not expected to completely break the drought.

Giumarra Agricom International, Escondido, Calif., should start receiving some avocados from Chile by September, if not sooner, said Gary Caloroso, marketing director.

Caloroso expects to see more Chilean fruit in the U.S. this year than last, but said volume likely will depend on factors like the currency exchange rate and demand in the European market.

He said he is pleased with the quality of Chilean avocados.

In mid-August, Mission Produce Co., Oxnard, Calif., was "reviewing the global market scene" and had not yet decided whether to market Chilean avocados this season, said Dave Fausset, director of sales.

Some suppliers likely will ship to the U.S., and others will not, he said.

"The question is, with their crop size, do they want to send some to the U.S. based on expected market conditions?" he asked. "We're in the process of evaluating our position and what our strategy will be."

Retailers likely will look forward to having Chilean avocados this season after an absence last year, said Xavier Equihua, CEO of the Chilean Avocado Importers Association.

Chilean fruit provides "a very good eating experience," he said, and the avocados travel well.

Chilean avocados generally ship from September until April or May, he said.

Chile"s largest market consists of its own domestic consumers, Brux said. Annual per capita consumption of avocados is up to 11 pounds in Chile.

Over the past few years, Europe has grown to be Chile's largest export market, followed by the U.S.

Argentina, a growing market, takes about 5% to 10% of the Chilean avocado crop.

China is "an area of great opportunity for avocados from Chile," Brux said.

"The market just opened last year and avocados are still a very foreign fruit, but there"s a strong demand for clean, green, healthy foods in China," she said.

"With the right distribution and good marketing, avocados could become a major success story in this market," she said.

 
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