Rough tropical weather in 2017 and its fallout in 2018 are now history, and Florida avocado grower-shippers say they are eager to get back to business as usual this year.
“We’re excited about the return to a normal Florida avocado season after the 2017 hurricane and 2018’s recuperative growth,” said Peter Leifermann, vice president of Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc.
“We’re happy to be able to offer SlimCados (Brooks-branded Florida avocados) to the full range of our customers this year.”
Expectations of the year are high and the trees and groves looked good in early May, said Mary Ostlund, Brooks Tropicals’ marketing director.
“We’re just seeing early season fruit, but what we’re seeing bolsters our hopes for a great season,” she said.
“With a warm spring, the avocados have been soaking up the sun with summer’s rains just beginning to further fuel their growth.”
As of May 10, two-layered cartons of various green-skin avocado varieties from the Caribbean were $33-38 for all sizes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A year earlier, the USDA had no prices to report, but Caribbean fruit in all sizes were $24-26 in various sizes as late as Feb. 23, 2018.
Weather has presented no problems this year, Ostlund said.
“Spring’s warmth with May’s showers are doing what these Florida avocados need to grow,” she said.
“All thumbs up for our southern Florida weather — just warm and rainy enough to kick off the Florida season.”
The season generally runs June-March, Ostlund said. Others said May-February is their peak.
“Florida avocados need a tropical climate and Southern Florida’s subtropical clime has what these avocados need,” Ostlund said, noting that avocados are the Miami-Dade region’s second-largest crop.
The winter months were “very dry,” so Miami-based grower-shipper J&C Tropicals had to irrigate, said Jessie Capote, executive vice president and co-owner.
“It finally started raining late last week,” Capote said May 10.
An ongoing concern is laurel wilt, a fungus-caused vascular disease in trees that spreads via redbay ambrosia beetles. The disease continues to spread “rather quickly,” said Manny Hevia, president and CEO of Miami-based grower-shipper M&M Farm Inc.
“We have lowered our cost to fight it, but until we find a real cure or treatment, all we can do is remove the affected trees,” he said. “Production acreage is therefore decreasing every month.”
On the other hand, Hevia said, his company estimates avocado volume around 800,000 bushels this season.
“This figure will allow us to have enough fruit to satisfy our customers’ needs rather nicely,” Hevia said.
Another bit of positive news, Hevia said, was that the storms of 2017 have faded into the past.
“It will be very satisfying to finally run our new hydro-cooler full time,” he said.
“Last year, because of the previous-year hurricane and declining (laurel wilt) acreage, our industry as a whole only produced around 500,000 bushels,” he said.
Princeton, Fla.-based New Limeco LLC, will start its avocado harvest on-time, in late May/early June, said Eddie Caram, general manager.
“The weather has been fantastic so far, and we seem to be headed into a nice-size crop,” Caram said.
He noted that the 2018-19 crop was only about 60% of normal, due to the after-effects of the 2017 storms.
A normal crop is on the way at Homestead, Fla.-based Unity Groves Crop., said Louie Carricarte, president and owner.
“Crop looks good this year with lots of volume,” he said. “The trees have rebounded from hurricane Irma and are back in full production. It appears to be on time this year starting soon.”
Finding the right-sized avocados is no problem this year, “so we feel that we will be able to meet our retailers’ requirements with no issues,” Carricarte said.
The weather has cooperated, he said.
“We are on a rebound year having had a recovering year last year after (Hurricane) Irma. So far, we have had near-perfect weather for good production,” he said.