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Mexico, which is the largest producer of avocados for the U.S. market, expects to export 705 million pounds of Hass avocados to the United States between July 2009 and June 2010, according to projections from the Avocado Producers & Exporting Packers Association of Michoac?n, commonly known by its acronym APEAM.

The first quarter of the crop year, from July through September, is the period of lightest volume. Projected volume for the period was 103 million pounds. "We just ended the first quarter, and we are on track with our projections, with 103,595,497 pounds shipped to the U.S. from July through September," Emiliano Escobedo, APEAM marketing director, said in a written statement Oct. 13.

During the October through December period, projected volume is 169 million pounds. January through March will be the peak production period with volume projected at 233 million pounds, and the projection for April through June is 200 million pounds.

The 705 million-pound export volume will be a record and an increase of about 10 percent over last year.

With California and Chile, the two other major sources of Hass avocados for the U.S. market, both having light crops last year, Mexico captured nearly two-thirds of the market. This year, Chile and California both have much larger crops, making a potential for total U.S. consumption of between 1.3 billion and 1.5 billion pounds, up sharply from the 1 billion-pound consumption of the prior three years. But "Mexico will remain the share leader," said Mr. Escobedo.

Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board, said that for budgetary purposes, the board is using an estimate of 1.362 billion pounds, but he expects the final number to land somewhere between 1.3 billion and 1.5 billion.

Demand has been growing over the last couple of years beyond the industry's ability to keep pace due to short crops in Chile and California, so prices have remained strong. With the much larger available supply this year, "we are very optimistic that if the cooperation is there, the coordination is there" among the various growing areas, "we will be successful in moving this new level of volume," said Mr. Obregon.

Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales for Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, thinks that the 40-50 percent increase that some people anticipate may be "a little unrealistic. It is one thing to have it on the tree," he said. "It is another to pick it and sell it at profitable prices for the growers and marketers. The number that you would have to increase every single week" to move that much volume for the year "I think is a little more than we should expect of the U.S. market." But he does think a 25 percent increase over last year is "a pretty safe number."

"I think what we see is tremendous possibilities for promoting avocados," said Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce Inc. in Oxnard, CA. With the large volumes available this year, "we can get the consumer back that has maybe left us [due to] high prices the last few years."

"Right at the moment, and from here on out, at least for another 12 months and maybe 18 months, we are kind of in a sweet spot for avocado consumers and customers" because of the volumes and the quality of the fruit that will be available from Mexico, Chile and California, said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc. in Bloomington, CA.

(For more on the Mexican avocado deal, see the Oct. 26, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)