( File photo )

By Amelia Freidline


Some Mexican avocado growers went on strike in late October, impeding harvest crews from entering orchards in protest of what they called unfair prices for their fruit and “illegal exports” of avocados from outside Michoacan. Harvesting and exports resumed in mid-November, but not before supplies to U.S. retailers thinned dramatically, causing a weeks-long shortage of ripe fruit for stores.

Nov. 15
Retail avocado displays to look different for a while
By Chris Koger

Mexican avocado shipments will be crossing into the U.S. in earnest Nov. 17, after a late-October growers strike all but dried up the supply chain to retailers and foodservice operators in the U.S.

But it will likely by several weeks past that before the supply chain starts to normalize.
APEAM, the group that represents growers and packers of avocados for export markets, announced an agreement with growers on Nov. 14.

The strike lasted more than two weeks, causing an estimated deficit of 73 million pounds of exports to the U.S., according to Ramon Paz, spokesman for APEAM, which represents exporting packers of avocados in Michoacan. However, there still is 30 weeks before the harvest ends in July, and shipments might catch up to previous estimates, he said.

“We are now working on estimates for the rest of the season,” Paz said on Nov. 15. “The fruit is on the trees, and our total production estimates have not changed. We will be able to provide a revised export estimate by the end of next week.”

While the harvest has started, representatives of U.S. importers who own packinghouses in Michoacan have said that it may take up to a week for supplies to hit U.S. store shelves. 
Importers plan to skip the ripening process for some shipments, avoiding a 3-4 day delay. 
Bags and custom packs will be scarce as shippers focus on bulk displays to expedite fruit shipments to retailers faster.

Paz said some promotions and ads for Mexican avocados in the U.S. were cancelled, and many were delayed.

“We are currently working with retailers to restore their confidence in our programs and to reschedule our programs,” he said.

The industry will focus on supplying the U.S. and other exports markets and “regaining the trust and preference of its customers,” according to the APEAM statement.

Paz and U.S. importers refuted claims from the striking growers — repeated in media in Mexico and the U.S. — that the root of the growers’ complaints about returns came from avocados from outside Michoacan and illegally packed and shipped to export markets, essentially creating a black market that devalued legitimate fruit.

According to Paz, laws dictate that fruit grown outside Michoacan can be packed and shipped in that state only if:
> The fruit is sold in Mexico;
> The fruit is exported to countries allowing non-Michoacan avocados, including Canada and China — but not the U.S.; and
> The fruit is for processing.
“Fruit from those other states do not go for export to the USA,” Paz said. APEAM has no evidence that this may be happening.

“The origin and traceability of the fruit going to the USA is closely inspected and supervised by the 80-plus USDA inspectors who regularly work in Michoacan and also by SAGARPA inspectors and other third-party inspectors,” he said.

Nov. 14
Avocado harvest resumes in Mexico
By Chris Koger

Workers are harvesting avocados in Mexico again, more than two weeks after a growers’ strike dried up exports to the U.S.

APEAM, the group that represents packers of avocados for export markets, announced the agreement with growers on Nov. 14. Jim Donovan, senior vice president of global sourcing for Mission Produce, Oxnard, Calif., confirmed the agreement Nov. 14.

“(The) industry is harvesting today,” Donovan said in an e-mail.

While the harvest has started, representatives of U.S. importers who own packinghouses in Michoacan have said that it may take up to a week for supplies to hit U.S. store shelves. 
Importers plan to skip the ripening process for some shipments, avoiding a 3-4 day delay.

“The first avocados will reach the border this weekend,” Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif. said Nov. 14. Many, many more will be needed to get supplies back to normal.

“This will take weeks,” Wedin said. “Many avocados will not be ripened until after Thanksgiving.”

A statement from APEAM said the agreement was reached after a Nov. 13 meeting involving the association growers and several Mexican government agencies. Growers agreed to remove all roadblocks that kept harvest and packing activities from happening.

“Some harvesting took place yesterday and today, and we expect to fully resume our harvesting activities tomorrow,” according to the Nov. 13 statement from APEA.

According to the statement, packers have agreed to improve communication about market conditions to growers, and increase transparency about prices, mrketing costs and margins.

Growers had requested a floor price on the fruit, but packers, importers and representatives of the Mexican government said that was not allowed by law.

Nov. 8
Mexican avocados vanishing in the U.S
By Chris Koger

If a grower’s strike in the Mexican state of Michoacan doesn’t end soon, Mexican avocados will all but disappear from store shelves and menus by Thanksgiving, according to importers.

Since Oct. 29, packinghouses have been shut down in Michoacan, including the two Mission Produce facilities and a Calavo Growers plant.

When harvesters will be allowed to return to the groves — a group of growers demanding higher prices from packers have blocked roads accessing those ranches — is unknown, importers say. But if the situation continues much longer, the industry won’t be able to shield their customers, and eventually consumers, from the aftermath.

“I would say it’s fairly easy math as the system runs out of fruit,” Jim Donovan, senior vice president of global sourcing for Mission Produce, Oxnard, Calif., said on Nov. 8.
The week of Nov. 19 — Thanksgiving is Nov. 22 — will most likely be when the U.S. supply of Mexican avocados is gone, if harvests don’t resume, he said.

Oct. 31
Grower-led halt to Mexican avocados an “extreme situation”
By Chris Koger

A group of “dissident growers” of avocados in Mexico are impeding harvest crews from entering orchards, and importers say inventories are dropping quickly.

“Prices are going up because the perception is that the availability is running out,” Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., said Oct. 31. “We’re watching it every day and we’re raising prices every day.”

He called it an “extreme situation.”

Growers for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., had not harvested the week of Oct. 29 as of halfway through the week, putting the company “on pins and needles” waiting for a resolution, Brent Scattini, vice president of sales and marketing, said Oct. 31.

While avocados can stay on trees longer than other types of tree fruit, a long delay can affect the next season’s harvest, Scattini said.

“With the amount of crop that’s out, there are risks in doing that,” he said.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t last any more than this week,” he said.

APEAM, the Association of Producers and Exporter of Avocados from Mexico, sent a statement to U.S. importers on Oct. 30.

“ Very little harvesting operations have taken place yesterday and today,” according to the statement, which details how harvest crews are being denied access to orchards. In some cases, trucks that were able to get to harvest were retained later in the day. ...
Several Mexican media outlets, including the newspaper El Universal, said the growers are protesting the illegal exports of avocados from outside Michoacan to the U.S. and other countries. 

According to the article — translated into English-langauge online publications, the growers are blocking roads to stop the influx of avocados into the state. Michoacan is the only state allowed to export avocados to the U.S.

Jose Luis Mata, a representative for an avocado growers’ association, said that a majority of growers are striking because of “corruption” that’s allowing the export of the non-Michoacan fruit, at a lower price.

 
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