The Peruvian avocado deal plays an increasingly important role in the U.S. avocado industry, grower-shippers say.
This year, growers in Peru are expected to ship 190 million pounds of avocados to the U.S., said Xavier Equihua, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Peruvian Avocado Commission.
Shipments got a late start in June, but Equihua said he expects product to be available through September. Labor Day typically marks the end of the Peruvian avocado program in the U.S.
“Peru is definitely big,” said Gahl Crane, sales director for Eco Farms, Temecula, Calif.
The country accounts for a significant part of Eco Farms’ program in June, July and August, he said.
Most of the company’s Peruvian avocados are shipped to East Coast retailers who are loyal to the brand while it’s in season, he said.
“We would be short on avocados without Peru,” Crane said.
In fact, without avocados from every growing area, shippers would have difficulty keeping the U.S. market supplied, he said. Crane said Peru can be counted on to provide good-looking, solid fruit with good dry matter.
“They are very predictable,” he said.
June and July typically are the peak months for Peruvian avocados, he said.
He attributed this year’s later-than-usual start to Peruvian growers holding off their shipments to the U.S. because growers in California and Mexico were picking so heavily.
At the same time, the European market was strong and provided an alternate outlet for Peruvian fruit.
Not as many retailers take Peru avocados as take fruit from Mexico or California, so Peruvian exporters are able to customize promotional programs for each chain, Crane said.
“Retailers like that,” he said.
He estimated that Peru had shipped about half its U.S. volume by July 22.
Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. will be finished with about 90% of its Peruvian program by the second week of August, said Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing.
Wedin, too, was pleased with the quality of avocados from Peru.
“They do a fantastic job,” he said.
Fruit has been quite large, but there has been some price pressure because of the late start, Wedin said.
Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., also imports quite a bit of Peruvian fruit, said partner Bob Lucy.
“We’ll have Peruvian fruit right up until Labor Day,” he said.
He estimated in late July that the harvest would continue for another three to four weeks.
“It varies by locale,” he said.
Some farmers already were finished harvesting, but others will go a few more weeks, he said.
Some fruit from the southern part of Peru, in the Inca area, was harvesting faster than that in the mid-section.
The Trujillo area was held back a little bit, “which is surprising,” he said.
The quality of Peruvian fruit has been improving and is better than it was in the past, Lucy said.
“We’re getting more and more retailers each year that are taking it,” he said.
Equihua and the Peruvian Avocado Commission are doing a good job promoting it, he added.
The last containers of Peruvian avocados destined for Villita Avocados Inc. in Pharr, Texas, already should be on the water and are expected to reach the East Coast by Aug. 10, said Aaron Acosta, corporate relationship manager.
This should be a good season for Peru, with good sizing and “very clean fruit,” he said.
The company sources from its own farm in Peru.
“We believe if we have control over the entire process, we can ensure quality,” Acosta said.