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Henry Avocado sources from all major suppliers to U.S. market

“We are sourcing from all of the major suppliers of Hass avocados into the United States,” said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp. in Escondido, CA, in a July 21 interview with The Produce News.

Henry Avocado began as a grower, packer and shipper of California avocados and continues to be. But since the 1990s, when imported avocados began to find a place in U.S. markets, expanding year-round availability for the increasingly popular fruit, Henry Avocado has also been handling imported product. It began with imports from Chile, then from Mexico, and now, this year, Peru will be joining the mix.

In California, “we have a relatively short crop this year.” So unlike last year, when shipment of a much larger crop of California avocados continued into December, “we are going to be finishing up in the month of August.” Mr. Henry said. “Then we are going to be increasing our volume out of Mexico and out of Chile” and, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent announcement that Peruvian avocados will be allowed into the United States without cold treatment, will be handling fruit from Peru as well.

“We are set up to do that. We are just waiting for the announcement,” Mr. Henry said. That expected announcement came officially just a day later, on July 22, with only weeks to go in Peru’s 2011 harvest season.

Mr. Henry said he expected the first arrivals of Peruvian avocados sometime around the middle of August, with arrivals continuing through around the middle of September.

Fruit from Chile and Mexico was already beginning to arrive in light volume but would “start ramping up in August” and continue “increasing in volume” throughout September. By October, Chile and Mexico will both be “going at a normal pace, so from then on we should be looking at pretty good volume every week,” he said.

“Chile has a larger crop than last year,” he said. Even though “Chile had a freeze three weeks ago,” according to “all of the information we are getting,” the effect on the crop was fairly insignificant,” so it appears that volume will still be up significantly from last year.

However, “Chile is able to export its fruit to many more countries” than in the past, Mr. Henry said. “When we first started with Chile over 20 years ago, I think they shipped about 85 percent of their fruit to the United States.”

Now it may be closer to half, he said. “Their domestic market has been built up” through advertising and marketing programs to build domestic demand, and Chile has also built up markets for its fruit in Europe and Argentina. “So they are less dependent on the United States.”

Even so, he said, with this year’s larger crop, Chile expects to have “significantly more fruit” in the U.S. market “than they have last year,” he said.

“We are hearing that Mexico also has somewhat more volume for the coming season than it did in the season that has just ended, Mr. Henry said. Also, next year California is anticipating a larger crop.

At Henry Avocado, “we source from all the countries, and our goal is always the same — to provide our customers with the best value at any given time of the year.”

A company press release issued July 26, after the USDA’s formal announcement on Peruvian avocado imports, quoted Mr. Henry as saying, “We should have Peruvian fruit available to ship to customers around Aug. 22.”

The Peruvian “dovetails nicely into the established importing order for Henry Avocado and others,” the press release stated. “Chile has supplied Henry’s West Coast customers during the fall and early winter,” while avocados from Mexico have become “the primary year-round source for Henry’s rapidly growing customer base in Texas and the Midwest.”

Now, by having anticipated the USDA’s approval of Peruvian imports and having lined up its suppliers in Peru in advance of that announcement, Henry Avocado is able to assure customers “that this sourcing will fill any potential gaps in late summer” until imports from Mexico and Chile are up to speed, the release stated.

Mr. Henry has “personally inspected various orchards and packinghouses in Peru to assure his customers would enjoy the same quality, food safety and shipping standards” that Henry Avocado has been providing those customers as a year-round supplier of fruit from California, Chile and Mexico, according to the release.