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Henry takes long-term view of 2017 harvest shortfall

With forecasts for the upcoming California avocado harvest at almost half of last year’s levels, Henry Avocado is focusing on the positive aspects of the industry in general, and the Escondido company in particular, according to a company press release.

“Despite the recent inconsistent pricing and product availability, we believe the long-term trend of avocado growth will continue,” Phil Henry, president of the company, said in the release. “And we are gearing up to accommodate it.”

While last year’s crop was in the 400 million-pound range, the 2017 harvest is forecast at 200 million pounds. Such discrepancy aside, Henry predicts there will be sufficient supplies this year, with the likelihood of price swings, until product availability stabilizes later in the year.

Optimism in the face of a dramatic shift in California output flows from the lasting benefits of the state’s recent rainfall. While plentiful enough to eliminate drought conditions throughout much of California, the downpours did not harm fruit buds and therefore, future production. Thus the 2018 crop volume should rebound accordingly as Henry has found that in years of heavy early rain, the orchards have a very good fruit flower set in the spring.

Regardless of high or low production from any particular growing region of the past decade, the industry has grown at nearly 10 percent a year, with Henry’s numbers slightly higher. Last year U.S. consumers purchased 40-50 million pounds of fresh avocados a week and Henry anticipates the volume this year would be governed by price points. Looking forward, however, that double-digit rate of increase should continue.

A grower-shipper since 1925, and year-round distributor since 1990, Henry believes avocados from Mexico, both organic and conventional, combined with avocados from Peru, will be available in sufficient quantities during California’s smaller harvest to meet U.S. market requirements

Phil-in-RRPhil Henry, president of Henry Avocado.Addressing this year’s lower California production, Henry added, “The effects of the five-year drought have hurt the trees’ ability to set fruit and grow larger sizes.”

Looking forward, Henry cited many positives for the industry in general and Henry Avocado in particular. “Each year more groves on both sides of the border are completing the certification process for organic production,” Henry said. Currently 20 percent of the groves Henry owns or manages are organic.

The increase in organic consumption, which corresponds with the growing consumer awareness of the fruit’s health benefits, is another source for Henry’s enthusiasm. The Hass Avocado Board’s Nutrition Research Program, established in 2010, provides consumers and media with research results that prove and promote the unique benefits of a diet rich in avocados.

Most industry observers agree that all this media attention favorably affects the general understanding and can account for the consistent national sales trending upward. When the U.S. Dietary Guidelines confirmed the nutritional benefits of avocados, it eliminated the notion the fruit contained harmful fats. Indeed, the research showed avocados were a source of unsaturated fats, which are an important dietary component.

The California Avocado Commission is also very active in supporting its members, with marketing programs based on proprietary research, during the state’s growing season. It set the standard decades ago with an array of integrated marketing programs. This year the CAC will target its marketing to correspond with supply to maximize retailers and foodservice advertising efforts.

Henry introduced organics in 2010 under its premium Bravocado label, which is used for conventional avocado packing as well. The company’s CustomRipe program provides all its fresh avocados to the specific degree of ripeness its customers require.

Available since it pioneered the practice in 1983, Henry has added 33 ripening rooms at its regional centers since 2014, giving it a total of 95. In addition to the center at its Escondido headquarters. Henry has distribution centers and ripening rooms in Milpitas, CA; Phoenix, AZ; and San Antonio and Houston, TX.

A one-page CustomRipe Ordering Guide, a marketing aid and fixture in the industry for well over a decade, is available from any of Henry’s marketing and sales offices. It has helped inform almost a generation of avocado buyers by detailing the five separate and distinct stages of ripening that can be produced at Henry’s distribution centers.

In the 27 years since Henry’s transition from a grower-shipper to year-round distributor, it has established growing partnerships with the leading farms and exporters in Mexico. Growers in Peru and Chile, who are also in compliance with Henry’s rigid freshness and cold chain requirements, can also provide product for Henry’s customers on the East Coast and in the Midwest, when a gap in supply occurs.