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Aggregate Hass avocado volume in the United States from all sources totaled a record 1.28 billion pounds in 2010. But due to light crops, and particularly a light California crop, the first three quarters of 2011 saw a decline in volume — the first significant decline in over a decade — coupled with record-high prices.

With the new-crop harvest now underway in Mexico and Chile, both of which have larger crops for 2011-12 than they did a year prior, product availability was beginning to build and prices were moderating.

Industry sources said that they expect promotable volumes of avocados in the marketplace during the fourth

Rob Wedin
quarter of 2011 and through at least the first three quarters of 2012.

 

“All of the large handlers have seen significant number increases in arrivals just in the last two or three weeks,” Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales at Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA, said Sept. 27.

The Hass Avocado Board in Irvine, CA, expects October-through-December volume to be better than the prior year and is (for budgeting purposes) projecting a record volume of 1.44 billion pounds for the 2012 calendar year.

Demand for Hass avocados in the United States has been increasing steadily over the last several years, and last year’s record-high prices in response to just an 11 percent decline in aggregate volume is seen as evidence that demand continues to increase. Therefore, marketers do not expect to have problems moving the larger 2012 volume at profitable prices.

“Demand has been increasing at about 12 to 15 percent a year,” said Mr. Wedin. In 2009 and 2010, “the volume growth was in the range of demand growth.” But in 2011, “the total available volume dropped” due largely to a short Chilean crop during the winter and a very short California crop during the spring and summer.

Mexico’s 2011-12 Hass exports to the United States are expected to be “at least 13 to 15 percent” higher than the prior year. “It is important to give recognition to Mexico,” which has accounted for “57 percent of the U.S. supplies in 2011,” Mr. Wedin said. “So when we take a 15 percent increase against [that volume], that is a lot of fruit.”

Chile is expected to have a volume increase of about 50 percent in 2011-12 over the prior season.

And the 2012 California crop is projected to be roughly double what it was in 2011.

Combining all those increases, Mr. Wedin said that he expects a total increase in aggregate volume in the U.S. market of “probably 20 percent” over 2011.

Layered on to that will be some arrivals in 2012 from Peru, which just recently received U.S. Department of Agriculture clearance to export Hass avocados to the United States.

“Next summer, we expect to have a much more significant” volume of Peruvian avocados in the market than in 2011, Mr. Wedin said, because by the time Peru got the OK to ship its fruit to the United States this summer, its season was almost over.

The increase in volume for the final quarter of 2011 coincides with a seasonal dip in demand following the summer heavy-use period, and that has led to a dip in prices and a build-up in inventory.

After months of tight supplies and shrunken shelf space, “it has taken a while for everybody to get their arms around how promotable [avocados] are” with the increased volumes now coming into the market, Mr. Wedin said. Also, the industry has “just gone through a period where we have done hardly any advertising since August. The new advertising [campaign] for avocados is just now kicking in.”

One problem on the early arrivals is that they tend to have “more small sizes than the market is accustomed to,” he said.

As always, “this time of year is challenging for the industry,” Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board, told The Produce News Sept. 27. “But once that transition hits and people assimilate [the increased volume], then the movement gets back up and running.”

All the avocado associations are providing promotional support, and there are “the promotable volumes that the retailers love,” Mr. Obregon added. I have started to see ads for avocados that we didn’t see in the summer because of the high prices.”

Avocado consumption “is growing worldwide,” he said. “It is just phenomenal.” If prices hold at reasonable levels even with the record volumes expected over the next year, it will “prove the hypothesis that the demand is there.” If for some reason those prices drop too low, “the beauty about it is the ability [of the exporters] to put the brakes on.” They all have “other options now. If the market is not good in the United States, they’ll just sell it down the street” in their own domestic markets or send it to Europe or elsewhere.