Eco Farms Avocados Inc. in Escondido, CA, which grows, packs and ships California avocados and also handles imported avocados from various sources, has opened a branch office in McAllen, TX, according to Steve Taft, president.
“It has been six months or so since we opened it, with the prospects of that area becoming a bigger and bigger dynamic area” in the avocado trade, “which is clearly true. It has become quite a force,” he said.
Increasingly, avocados from Mexico are crossing into the United States through McAllen, and “Mexico is dominant now” in the avocado market in the United States. “We thought we should be represented there for a bunch of reasons,” and “if for no other reason that we have a set of eyes on the fruit at all times,” he said. Otherwise, when the fruit comes into a cooler in Texas, “you’re relying on outside people to look at your fruit.”
Managing the office in McAllen, and handling f.o.b. sales as well as inspections, is Jason Stros who was previously a director of product development with LozaMax Inc. in Mission, TX. Mr. Stros, an experienced avocado marketer, previously held a similar position with London Fruit Inc. in Pfarr, TX. He will be selling avocados for Eco Farms from all sources, not just from Texas, Mr. Taft said.
The other sources for Eco Farms’ avocados, in addition to California and Mexico, are Chile and, beginning this season, Peru.
“In California, we are on the wind-down,” with about five or six weeks to go in this season, Mr. Taft said July 20. “It has been a very short crop. It has been an extremely high-priced crop, I am sure much higher than anybody would have predicted back in October or November last year.” But it has been “a welcome one for the growers in California. With all our high input costs, it has been a blessing.”
Last year, Eco Farms shipped California avocados into December, with fairly heavy volume into November. This year, the season will be “pretty much all done” by the middle of September, although there “might be a little trickle beyond that,” he said.
As the California season winds down, the task of meeting the ever-growing demand for avocados in the United States will rest on Mexico, Chile and Peru.
Eco Farms expected its first shipment of Chilean avocados to arrive on the West Coast the week of July 25, but it will be the first of September before any significant volume arrives, he said.
Peruvian fruit (which was officially admitted into the U.S. market without cold treatment effective July 22 with only five or six weeks left in the Peruvian season) will probably start arriving mid-August. “We will be involved with Peru, but I don’t know to what volume yet,” Mr. Taft said. “We’re going to start slow. We want to learn about the fruit before we get going hog wild.”
Mexico, meanwhile, was just finishing its old crop and getting started on a light off-season flora loca crop that precedes the early new crop. Mr. Taft expected the flora loca to run for about four weeks and the preceding crop “another month or six weeks” before the main season got under way which is expected to be “a big crop” this year, perhaps eight percent or nine percent higher than last year.
At Eco Farms, “obviously our volume is going to be bigger” over the 12-month period beginning in September than it was during the previous 12 months, he said.