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Del Rey offering more organic and conventional fruit from Mexico

The 2011-12 Mexican avocado season “is certainly in full swing right now,” Bob Lucy, president of Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc. in Fallbrook, CA, told The Produce News Oct. 26. Nearly 20 million pounds of fruit came into the United States “just from Mexico” during the previous week, “so that is pretty amazing.”

Bob-Lucy
Bob Lucy

At the same time, weekly volume from Chile had declined and was projected to decline further over the next week or so, in spite of a larger Chilean crop this year. Chile started off early with fairly strong volume, but prices were not as strong as anticipated.

So, with options for their fruit besides the U.S. market, “they have really come down on their volume,” he said.

Consequently, with no other major producing countries in the game at this time of year, Mexico currently “is getting a huge market share” in the United States, “and I think they may even increase that,” Mr. Lucy said.

As a company, Del Rey is participating in that increased volume of fruit from Mexico, not only with conventionally grown avocados but with organically grown avocados as well.

“Organics are an important part of our business. Del Rey does have a very high percentage of organic business,” Mr. Lucy said.

Del Rey works with several shippers in Mexico, but “we get most of our supplies from Promega and JBR, and particularly the organic from JBR,” he said. In addition, “probably in the next two weeks we will be getting some organic [avocados] from another grower — a very large grower down there.”

Quality out of Mexico so far this year has been “very good,” Mr. Lucy said. “We haven’t had any complaints at all on Mexican fruit. The quality has been excellent.”

Mexican producers have been doing “a really good job of making sure that they checked everything in the field in different growing areas before they released fruit for maturity,” he continued. They really watched it to make sure what they were sending up to the United States had the correct dry weight number” and therefore good oil content. They have done “a very good job on that.”

As of late October, Del Rey was getting fruit from Mexico on a “steady basis up to our warehouse in the Northeast, and also in Florida and out here” in California, Mr. Lucy said. With good customer demand for the fruit, the company was bringing in “as much as we can.”

Prices were currently “very strong” for sizes 48 and larger, he said. Markets were weaker on 60s, 70s and 84s, but “that will change a little bit with the Chileans backing off. Also, the fruit down in Mexico is going to be growing in size, so I think that will change.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Lucy said that he expects Mexican producers to hold off a little on some of the smaller sizes and “do a little more size picking,” which will “get some of [the smaller sizes] out of the marketplace.”

Most of the fruit that Del Rey receives from Promega, which is the company’s largest supplier in Mexico, is packed in the “Del Rey” label, Mr. Lucy said. Conventional fruit from JBR is in the “La Joya” label, and organic fruit from JBR is in the “Nature Grown” label.

Mr. Lucy’s son, Donnie Lucy, who has been playing professional baseball for the Chicago White Sox, has been helping out on sales at Del Rey during the team’s off season.

“I think he will be on board full time at Del Rey now,” Mr. Lucy said, adding that he will be given responsibilities for the eastern part of the United States.

Another son, Patrick Lucy, “will have the national accounts.” Joe Reavis, a partner of Mr. Lucy, who has been doing some sales, “will basically move off most of the sales responsibilities and just concentrate on operational things” such as preconditioning rooms, controlling product arriving at the harbor, managing inventories and overseeing the packinghouse.

Also, “starting in November, our packinghouse manager’s son [Gabriel Arias] is going to come to work for us in the sales office” and will be trained in sales, Mr. Lucy said.