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Peru poised to become larger player in U.S. avocado market in coming seasons

Peruvian avocados first gained access to the U.S. market late in the season in 2011, making 2013 the third year but the second full season that avocados from Peru have been available to buyers in the United States.

The Peruvian season runs from June through September, corresponding to the peak of the California avocado season, and also to the peak consumption months for avocados in the United States.

This year the Peruvian Avocado Commission expects a total volume of between 40-45 million pounds of avocados from Peru to come into the U.S. market, which is only a small portion of the aggregate total volume of about 1.7 million pounds of avocados from all sources the industry expects to be consumed in the United States in 2013.

010-GlobalAvos-PeruAvoA Hass avocado grove in Peru. (Photo courtesy of Peruvian Avocado Commission)But in coming seasons, “Peru will continue to increase its presence in the U.S. market,” Xavier Equihua, CEO of the Peruvian Avocado Commission, told The Produce News.

Noting the continued double-digit growth of avocado consumption in the U.S., Equihua, who is also CEO of the Chilean Avocado Importers Association, emphasized that “there is room for everybody.”

There is a potential in 2014 for Peru to export 90-100 million pounds of avocados to the United States, he said. “There are young trees beginning to bear fruit that will be ready next year.”

He also expects large sizes again, as is the case this year, because “young trees usually bear large fruit and that is the case with Peruvian fruit.”

Peru has “an incredible potential to become a very large source for avocados to the U.S.,” he said.

Mexico, which has year-round production, is and will always continue to be “by far the largest” supplier of avocados to the U.S. market, Equihua said. “We all know that. But everything is complementary, and there is room for all of these sources.”

Peru has “something that no other foreign origin has,” he said, and that is peak volume during the peak consumption periods in the United States. “I am not saying that Mexico is not a producer of avocados during that period, but their peak production really is not during the July and August periods.” Only California and Peru are at their peak during the peak consumption months.

As U.S. demand for avocados continues to grow, California experiences fluctuations in volume from one season to the next and cannot always meet demand, Equihua pointed out. “You will always have these kinds of fluctuations where you have large summer crops from California and then smaller crops from California, and Peru will make an excellent source for filling those gaps.”

Per capita consumption of avocados in the United States. “is going to continue to increase, and having other origins like Peru in the market gives retailer choices, which is very important,” he said. “Retailers don’t want to be stuck with one origin.”

Nor is Peru relying just on the U.S. market as an outlet for its expanding production. “Their primary market right now continues to be the European Union, and the U.S. is a secondary market right now,” Equihuia said. But the United States “has great potential to become as large or even larger than the European Union” as a market for Peruvian avocados.

“Peru is also looking at diversifying its portfolio,” he continued. Notably, Chile “for sure will be open next year for Peruvian fruit, and there is no doubt that Peru will export avocados to Chile” during the spring and summer months when Chile’s own production is low. Chile is “a great market for avocados,” with per capita consumption second only to Mexico.

In the United States, as consumption continues to climb, there will “be a need for sources like Peru to continue exporting more,” Equihua said, and he expects to see other producing countries to come into the market as well.

With a relatively small volume of Peruvian avocados in the U.S. market at present, the Peruvian Avocado Commission has a fairly small budget, so its marketing activities are limited.

“Our marketing activities this year are very classic,” Equihua said. “It is retail-focused program based on offering retail tags and offering demos,” and targeting East Coast markets. The commission is continuing in its campaign this year with the same theme used in 2012, which is “Monumental Taste.”

A June 13 press release from the commission stated that “the integrated marketing effort is designed to raise consumer awareness and support the product at retail via a robust media buy that includes mobile billboards near retail outlets, radio, in-store signage and store demos. This year’s efforts will focus on key markets including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston and is intended to put a solid foundation in place for enhanced efforts in the following years.”