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Mexican avocados to dominate U.S. market through mid-spring

by Rand Green | October 27, 2010
With California's huge 2010 avocado crop winding down and a 2010-11 Chilean crop that is lighter than usual, Mexican avocados are expected to dominate the U.S. market from November through mid-spring.

The Mexican season, which officially runs from July through June, got off to a slow start this year partly because of the large amount of California fruit in the market and partly because of weather-related light volumes early in the deal.

Mexican-grown avocados have four different bloom periods each year. The off-season bloom called Flora Loca, which matures during the summer, is the lightest-volume period for Mexican production and was said to be even lighter than usual this year.

According to Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director for the Avocado Producers & Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán, based in Michoacán, Mexico, and commonly known by its acronym APEAM, Mexico had projected shipments of 95 million pounds for the July-through-September period and came in at 84 million pounds.

Mexican shipments were beginning to increase as of mid-October when The Produce News talked with Mr. Escobedo, and they were expected to exceed the shipments from California and Chile combined in November and December. APEAM was projecting that for the fourth quarter of the calendar year, Mexican avocados will represent approximately a 55 percent share of the U.S. market.

From the first of the year through Super Bowl weekend, Mexico will continue to "have the majority of the market," with perhaps 75 percent of the volume in the marketplace for Super Bowl being from Mexico, he said. He expects about an 80 percent share for February, and even higher in March and April after the Chilean imports finish. “Then California will be starting their season,” and the Mexican dominance will decline.

Over the past year, total Hass avocado consumption in the U.S. market was around 1.3 billion pounds, up from around 1 billion for each of the prior three years. Mr. Escobedo expects the total for the coming year to be somewhere in between, possibly around 1.1 billion pounds.

There will not be “huge amounts of promotable volume” in the marketplace during the coming year, he said. “Mexico did suffer some bad weather back in February, and that did impact the bloom and the set on the crop this year.” He does not expect to see much opportunity for “five-avocados-for-a-dollar” promotions. Still, there will be enough volume for retailers to “continue promoting the fruit. We will support the category with our advertising, our [public relations] programs and our merchandising programs.”

But “this is going to be a year where we will have to be very strategic, making sure that with the consumer we maintain the value and the demand for avocados,” he said, noting that the challenge will be figuring out how to keep demand growing “when the prices are higher than the previous year because of shorter volume. How do we get that customer to keep buying and buying fruit when we are not necessarily promoting every week?”

In an attempt to make that happen, he said, Mexican growers will be focusing on making sure that the quality is good, “and it is not just cosmetic but also that the eating experience is very good.” APEAM wants consumers to see avocados as “always in season and they are always good.”

When the U.S. avocado market first faced 1 billion pounds of aggregate volume in a single year in 2006, “we were all panicking,” he said. Now, having moved much more than that a year and having seen the demand curve continue to rise, the concern is “making sure we keep the customer satisfied” with only 1.1 billion pounds of fruit.

(For more on Mexican avocados, see the Nov. 1, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)