Avocado volume out of Mexico should reach nearly 2 billion pounds during the current season — July 1 to June 30 — an increase from last year, despite a slow start during the summer.

Volume could be 15% more than last year, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

But since fruit size will be slightly smaller, the number of avocados actually could be 20% greater than last year, he said.

“We’re getting good supplies of 48s, which is a large fruit,” he said in mid-October.

Supplies of size 40s were OK, but there were few 36s and 32s.

“That indicates that growers are size picking,” he said, trying to pick 60s and larger and letting their size 70s and smaller grow.

He said prices might be 25% higher than two years ago as a result of the increasing popularity of avocados, and because growers are gaining confidence in the value of their crops.

Growers also are getting better at controlling inventory and communicating market conditions, Wedin said.

Calavo’s volume will be up more than 15% over last year, he estimated.

Despite relatively strong numbers, f.o.b. prices tumbled $20 to $30 per carton between mid-September and mid-October, said Bob Lucy, partner at Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif.

“Prices have really come down,” he said, as volume starts to kick in.

Grower-shippers expected lower prices in the fall once volume from Mexico picked up, he said.

“We didn’t think it would happen quite this fast.”

In mid-August, f.o.b. prices of two-layer cartons of hass avocados ranged from $78.25 to $80.25, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Two months later, they had dropped to $42.25 to $44.25.

Retail prices were going down cautiously, Lucy said, since supermarkets still had some pricey fruit in the system.

“It will probably take them another couple of weeks before they get down to prices that are more in line with current f.o.b.s.,” he said Oct. 10. “We thought this would happen by the end of October or the beginning of November. It’s happening a few weeks faster than we thought.”

The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, is entering its eighth season marketing avocados grown by Mevi, “a standout Mexican producer,” said Rodrigo Lopez, avocado category manager.

“We’re anticipating a very solid crop from Michoacan this season,” he said. “Mevi’s high-tech packinghouse will be working at 100% capacity.”

The company also sources from RVJs, a newer grower.

Oppenheimer sells most of its Mexican avocados in 25-pound boxes but also can offer bags and top-seal packs, Lopez said.

Giumarra Agricom International, Escondido, Calif., expects to have a slight increase in volume over last year, said Gary Caloroso, regional business development director for parent company The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

“Quality looks good,” he said in mid-October. “Mexico can always be counted on for good quality.”

Caloroso expected fruit size to start out slightly smaller than usual but to start sizing up throughout the fall. He anticipated steady supplies at least until spring.

“I would expect promotable volume from November through March, for sure,” he said.

Prices should fall as volume picks up, he said, but demand remains high.

Not even 40 million to 50 million pounds per week industrywide may satisfy demand, he said.

“If you’re a retailer, it’s much tougher now than it was a couple of years ago to be a low-priced avocado seller,” Caloroso said.

Some retailers will sell avocados at a low price to lure shoppers into their stores to buy other products, he said. But consumers have proven over the past year or so “that they are willing to pay more for an avocado than all of us ever realized,” he said. “Demand continues to outpace the supply.”