(UPDATED Sept. 7) Hass avocado prices may continue at dizzying levels through at least late September as reduced volume from Mexico has pushed shipping point prices above $80 per carton on some sizes and sent wholesale prices soaring near $100 per carton.

With 40-count Mexican hass priced at $83 per carton on Sept. 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the average shipping point price for all sizes of hass fruit in early September was $73 per carton for conventional fruit, up about $20 per carton from a year ago.

Total domestic and imported supply of avocados for the week of Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 totaled 27 million pounds, down 30% from the same week last year. Mexico accounted for 74% of total avocado supply for the week of Aug. 27, followed by 15% from Peru and 10% from Chile.

“It is going to tight for the next couple of weeks and then Mexico will start to get into its new bloom and regular crop and we then we will start to see increased volume come out of Mexico,” said Gary Caloroso, regional business development director at The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

The California season is ending, Peru is nearly finished and volume from Chile isn’t sufficient for demand, he said Sept. 6.

“This was going to be the tough time of the year, right here, before Mexico starts its regular crop,” he said. “There is just not enough fruit and incredible demand.”

Weather conditions have slowed picking in Mexico, said Aaron Acosta, corporate relationship manager at Pharr, Texas-based Villita Avocados Inc. “Spotty rain has hampered our ability to harvest and our most recent inspections indicates the majority of our fruit still lacks some maturity. Therefore we do not expect any increase to existing inventories in the near future,” Acosta said.

Longer term, avocado market conditions will ease, Caloroso said.

Mexico currently projects 10% to 20% more volume than last year, he said. California volume also may increase in 2018.

Despite higher retail prices, Caloroso said consumers have been willing to pay for the fruit.

Advertised average retail prices for hass fruit were reported at $1.81 each on Sept. 1 by the USDA up from $1.05 each for the same week a year ago. Only 500 supermarkets tracked by the USDA had retail ad promotions for hass avocados on Sept. 1, down from more than 8,000 stores a year ago.

Some foodservice customers are mixing in avocado pulp with fresh avocados to reduce costs, said Deseray Moceri, business development manager with Moceri Produce, San Diego, Calif. Other restaurants are charging extra for avocados/guacamole.

“Here in San Diego the average cost for a case of 40-count No. 1 avocados is anywhere between $80-100,” she said Sept. 5. “Hopefully we will see some relief within two weeks.”

 
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