California had a small Hass avocado crop last year and finished shipping in
August. This year, the state has a large crop which, for a variety of reasons,
got off to a slow start and as of late July was at peak volume with still roughly
40 percent of the harvest to go. Volume was expected to continue strong into
October, with some shipments extending into November.
As it happens, Mexico and Chile, the other two major avocado producing
areas for the U.S. market, which last year were in strong volume hot on the
heels of California's early finish, both will be considerably later getting into
major volume this fall — Chile because of a lighter crop that was recently
further shortened by a freeze, and Mexico because of light volume on the
front end of the season. However, by the time California finishes, both Mexico
and Chile are expected to be going strong.
Total avocado volume sold in the United States during the 2009 calendar year
was 1.1 billion pounds, and "this year we are expecting 1.4 [billion], more or
less," said Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board,
which represents handlers of Hass avocados from all sources.
For 2011, Mr. Obregon expects “probably a smaller total than this year,”
partly because California, coming off of a heavy crop, expects lighter volume
in 2011, he said. Although it is “too soon” to put a number on total 2011
shipments, he expects it will be somewhere between the record 2010 volume
and the 2009 volume.
Because the industry has done such a good job of creating demand, “we have
been very successful at moving between 22 [million] and 27 million pounds
every week,” he said.
While the impact of a freeze in Chile the third week of July was still being
evaluated at this writing, the Chilean Avocado Importers Association as of July
27 was estimating 2010-11 Hass exports to the United States to be around
170 million pounds, down from 300 million the prior season, with volume
peaking from November through February.
“The whole crop will be pushed more into the fall and winter months instead
of late summer,” which “actually turns out to be a pretty good thing” because
of the amount of California fruit still to be moved, said Bob Lucy, president of
Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, CA.
Mexican exporters expect a total volume for July through December this year
very similar to last year, but that includes some old-crop carryover from a
large 2009-10 crop. Although Mexico ships year round, volume is lighter
during the summer transition from the old to the new crop, and U.S. handlers
of Mexican avocados say that this summer’s off-season harvest will be lighter
than usual as will the early part of the main new crop.
“Mexico will start more slowly than it did last year,” said Rob Wedin, vice
president of fresh sales at Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA. “It seems
that the flora loca and the early crop are not as big as they were last year.” But
by October, about the time California volume starts to taper off, he expects
Mexico to be shipping weekly volumes similar to last year.
“I think you will see good volumes from Mexico ... all the way into May or
June,” said Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh Inc. in Bloomington, CA.
For 2011, “we are expecting a smaller crop out of California,” with the harvest
getting underway around March or April, he said. “On a weekly basis, starting
about in October, we see that the average weekly volume [over the next year]
while still respectable will be down from 2009-10.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, the green skin avocado crop got off to a late start but
was in full swing as of the third week in July.
(For more on global avocados, see the Aug. 9, 2010, issue of The Produce