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Index Fresh expects close to 25 percent overall volume increase

Fresh Inc. in Bloomington, CA, handles domestic avocados from California and imported avocados from Chile, Mexico and Peru. Over the next year, in the United States, “we are looking at adding about 20 to 25 percent more volume” than during the 2010-11 season, said Giovanni Cavaletto, vice president of operations. That increase “is going to come from all four countries. California is going to have a bigger crop. Mexico is forecasting a larger crop.” Chile will have a larger crop and may send a larger share of it to the United States. Peru will be new to the U.S. market this year, although Index Fresh has been shipping Peruvian avocados into Canada for the last four seasons.

The 2011 California avocado season “is fairly rapidly coming to a close,” Mr. Cavaletto said July 20. Because of the small volume, strong demand and high prices, “it will probably be the earliest finish that we have ever had. For all intents and purposes, we will be done by the end of August. It was a more successful season than we anticipated at the outset.”

Growers “ended up finding a little bit more fruit in their groves” than initially estimated, he said.

With a small Chilean crop last winter and prospects at that time of a small California crop ahead, as Super Bowl weekend approached last January, avocado prices started to rise, “and they never went down after that,” Mr. Cavaletto said. So for California growers, “it has been a very good spring and summer, to the point where even with the lower per-acre production levels, a lot of growers ended up having fairly successful years because the price per pound made up for the lower production.”

But with the California crop now winding down. “We are going to have a transition period” over “the next three weeks,” he said, referring to the final week of July and the first two weeks of August.

Index Fresh imported the last of its old-crop fruit from Mexico during the second week of July, and as of the following week had begun the first imports of “the flora loca, which is the beginning of the new crop out of Mexico,” Mr. Cavaletto said. “Mexico continues to grow every year.”

“Our first Chilean fruit” of the new season “is on the water” having shipped out of Valparaiso about a week and a half earlier. “So we will probably see that next week,” he said. In addition to Chile having a larger crop this year, a larger share of that crop may be coming to the United States, he explained. “Over the last several years, Chile has shipped a lot of fruit to Europe. With the U.S. market significantly higher in price today than the European market,” Chilean producers are “looking at redirecting some of that fruit to North America.”

Index Fresh has been involved with Peruvian avocados for about eight years. “We are finishing up our fourth year shipping Peruvian fruit to Canada. ”

As of July 20, Index Fresh and other U.S. avocado handlers were awaiting word, expected any day, that restrictions on bringing Peruvian fruit into the United States without cold treatment had been approved. Once that approval became official, Mr. Cavaletto said he anticipated that “we will see probably three to four million pounds of fruit coming from Peru between August 15th and December 15th.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made the anticipated announcement of the approval official on July 22.

Index Fresh continues to work on implementing programs in the area of food safety and traceability, Mr. Cavaletto said. “We’ve got our G-10s and everything all established” for the Produce Traceability Initiative. Additionally, “we have finished social responsibility audits not only for our California facility but for our co-packers abroad.”

Index Fresh is in its third year with a pilot program to get “the groves we work with in California” certified for Good Agricultural Practices through Primus Labs, he said.

New on sales at Index Fresh is Cherie Buller, who was previously with Coast Citrus.