Hawaiian avocado growers are shipping limited supplies of the sharwil variety to the U.S. mainland. ( Courtesy University of Hawaii-Manoa )

Surf is up for Hawaiin avocados.

Hawaii’s avocado growers are finally shipping to the U.S. mainland.

A report in West Hawaii Today said that weekly shipments of 3,000 pounds of sharwil avocados to the U.S. Northwest began in December and could continue through the end of March.

The shipments were made possible by enactment of a final rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allowed sharwil avocados to be shipped to some states, if they are produced and packed under specific procedures to prevent fruit flies from reaching the mainland.

The USDA is limiting distribution of sharwil avocados in the continental U.S. to 32 northern-tier states and the District of Columbia. The limited distribution ensures that if any fruit with fruit flies are shipped, “the hosts and climate conditions at their destination will not allow them to reproduce,” the USDA said.

Before the final rule, Hawaii avocados had to be fumigated for fruit flies before shipment to other states, a process that strained fruit quality.

The rule allows Hawaiian avocados to be shipped to the mainland without fumigation, resulting in better quality arrivals.

Limiting the harvest season from November through March will prevent overripe fruit that are more susceptible to pests from entering the pathway, according to the USDA.

“Late in the harvest season, overripe fruit are more likely to be found in the orchard and might be picked by accident,” the USDA said.


Small volume

Still, the projected volume of Hawaiian avocado shipments to other states is only a fraction of the total avocado supply in the U.S.

The USDA said sharwil avocado shipments from Hawaii to the mainland are expected to total about 180 metric tons per year.

The USDA said that is equal to about one-half of 1% of the U.S. supply of non-hass avocados and less than one-twentieth of 1% of the U.S. supply of all avocado varieties. Billy Wakefield, a long-time avocado farmer in West Hawaii who serves on the board of the Hawaii Avocado Association, told West Hawaii Today access to the mainland market may prompt growers to add hundreds of acres of avocado groves to meet demand.

The report in West Hawaii Today said the avocados are being shipped to a couple of unnamed produce wholesalers in Seattle.