Natural production cycles and the lasting effect of hail during flowering last year are likely to be seen on the Mexico’s post-season totals when the current season ends of June 30.

 Predictions put the decrease at 20%, compared with the year before. Far from being gloomy, however, Mexico’s avocado exporters are upbeat about their future prospects and base that confidence on growing demand for the fruit, not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

Mexico’s avocado season begins around July 1 each year and lasts through to June 30 of the following year.  Although the current campaign is progressing well, Dr. Ramón Paz, strategic advisor for APEAM, Michoacan’s Avocado Producer and Exporting Packer Association, says volumes have decreased.

During the 2015-16 season, the sector exported 865,000 tonnes (1.907 billion pounds) and for the current campaign the total is likely to be just over 740,000 tonnes (1.63 billion pounds), according to the association’s figures.

APEAM blames the decrease on natural production cycles.

“Avocados have a tendency to produce more one year and less the next year and this year was the lower one,” said Paz, who also blamed hail during flowering in March 2016.

Paz says exports to other, non-U.S. markets have slightly increased this season.

“We’ve always exported to lots of countries, but this year we have increased the diversification and we’re sending more to Japan, Canada, Europe, China and Central and South America,” he said. “In the U.S., there are some threats and one of our strategies to develop our diversification.”

While exports to the U.S. have decreased slightly this season as a consequence by around 2-3%, Paz stresses that they remain well within normal levels and still account for some 75% of the total.

“We are exporting a little more to other markets, but exports to the U.S. are more or less at the same level — the decrease is primarily due to lower production this season,” he said.

Growing demand

Principally centered in the state of Michoacán, Mexican avocado production is overwhelmingly focused on hass, of which total volumes for the country for 2016 totalled 1.9 million tonnes (4.19 billion), equivalent to 38% of worldwide production. Of this, 54% — were exported.

During the calendar year, growers in Michoacán produced 1.46 million tonnes (3.22 billion pounds), accounting for 78% of the national total, of which 944,000 tonnes (2.08 billion pounds) were exported.

With next season likely to see a recovery in volumes, Paz believes Mexico is well placed to take advantage of growing demand for avocados around the globe.

“The markets for avocado are growing worldwide,” he says. “The U.S. market for avocados has grown by 10-15% annually over the last five-six years and other markets, such as Japan, China and Europe are also growing,” he said. “Production in Mexico is also growing, although at a slower rhythm than demand, but I think Mexico will continue to be an important player in international markets.”

Paz predicts that the market for avocados in the U.S. will keep growing due the strength of demand, although he says Asian destinations — and in particular China — are likely to assume significant importance in the near future.

“The U.S. is an enormous market given the amount of consumers, but we are also studying with a great deal of interest consumption in China,” he said. “Although China at the moment consumes very little in kilos, the growth there is astounding — consumption is doubling or tripling there every year, so I think China is going to become a very important player.”

Meanwhile, consumption levels have also recovered in Europe and are currently growing by more than 15% a year, while Canada and Japan are also growing by 20% annually.

On a much smaller scale is Mexico’s organic avocado sector, accounting for less than 10% of total production in the country. José Luis Tungüi, president of organic avocado producers’ association Frhomimex, said volumes are also likely to be higher this season — at around 2,000 tonnes — than the 2015-16 campaign as a result of more favorable weather and steadily increasing demand. The association, which markets its avocados under the Don Aguacato brand, is currently composed of around 100 growers based in Michoacán, but is now looking to expand its membership into the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Morelia, Guerrero and Veracruz.