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Mexican avocado imports may go later into spring with strong volume

Total exports of Hass avocados from Mexico into the United States in 2012-13 were a record 517,896 metric tons, up 40 percent from the prior crop year, which in turn topped the previous year by 26 percent, according to APEAM, the association of growers and exporting packers in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

While industry sources agree that total imports of Mexican avocados will continue to climb, due in part to the fact that additional groves have been approved to ship to the United States, there was not yet at this writing an official estimate from APEAM for the 2013-14 crop or the projected export volume.

However, most handlers of Mexican avocados The Produce News talked to expect a total crop and an export volume this year similar to last year, and Maggie Bezart, vice president of trade and marketing for Avocados From Mexico, concurred. "We are looking at a crop that is going to be similar to last year," she said Oct. 28.

"Currently, Mexico does not have an official crop estimate," said Rob Wedin, vice president of fresh sales and marketing at Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, CA. There was an estimte, "but I think they had some technical issues with it. I think they felt there were some inaccuracies in it, and they sent the estimators back to the drawing board."

"That is correct," said Bezart with regard to the APEAM board revisiting the initial estimate. But actually "they have hired a new estimating company."

Importantly, however, "for our customers, they can rest assured that there will be plenty of fruit because the crop will be similar" to the 2012-13 crop, and the export volume to the United States will also be similar.

What is different about this crop, however, is the production curve and also the anticipated volume curve through the season.

"Last year's crop was very heavy in the early blooms and lighter in the late blooms," said Wedin. However, the new crop, which started in August, "is light in the early blooms and heavier in the later blooms. So we did get a slow start, but we have caught up now." As of the first week in October, the weekly volume was up to where it had been on that date the previous year. "That is a good sign that the fruit is definitely starting to come in now." He expects to see volume increases in November and December.

Wedin expects to see, overall, a very good crop out of Mexico for 2013-14. "We believe they have a very good crop, and we do know that there is more certified acreage" approved for export to the United States. The combination of those to factors "makes us feel that there will be at least as much" Mexican fruit for the U.S. market as there was in 2012-13.

Bezart said that the reason for the lighter crop at the start of the season was weather. "Due to the heavy rains that happened in September and the beginning of this month, [growers] were not able to get into the ranches to harvest." That left some of the fruit on the trees longer than expected, which creates a higher oil content, making "a far creamier and more delicious fruit."

Mexico's slight start this season dovetailed well with the end of the California season, as California had a large crop that sent later than usual. The reverse is expected to be true toward the end of the new Mexican crop and the 2014 California crop, as the California crop is expected to be down in volume. With a lighter California crop, California growers are not likely to start harvesting as early, which will create a window for Mexico to carry strong volume later into the spring than it did last year.

David Fausett, domestic sales manager at Mission Produce in Oxnard, CA, said he expects Mexican growers to "control their harvest efforts in these fall months, when there is less demand, and they will focus a bigger percentage of that crop for the spring and summer months" because of the smaller California crop. They realize that they can capitalize on what would be a better market in terms of movement, demand and promotion. They are going to backlog some of that fruit and pick it during those months. I don't think you'll really see them put the pedal to the metal" until perhaps December onward.

Rankin McDaniel Sr., president of McDaniel Fruit Co. in Fallbrook, CA, is expecting the Mexican crop to come in a little lighter than last year. "There are some people saying it is going to be a little bit more, but I think the general consensus is that the crop is somewhat smaller than it was last year in terms of overall volume -- but not much smaller," he said Oct. 21. "It will still be a very good crop out of Mexico."

The "timing and flow" of the crop "will be a little bit different from last year," McDaniel said. "The later crop seems to be a little bit larger than it was last year."

In spite of a slower start this year, "Mexican avocados are really in full swing" following a rainy September, said Bob Lucy of Del Rey Avocado Inc. in Fallbrook, CA. "The volume has really cranked up." The timing is "just about right," with California avocados "out of the way."

Quality seems to be good, Lucy said, "and we think Mexico will be in the marketplace very, very heavily from now until June."