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Eco Farms doubles ripening capacity

avoResponding to retail and consumer demand, Eco Farms Avocado Inc. in Temecula, CA, has significantly increased its ripening capacity at its Southern California packing facility in Riverside County.

“We have doubled our capacity,” said Sales and Marketing Director Gahl Crane, who added that the handler has also increased the number of growers it is doing business with. “We have added new growers throughout California. Our field staff has done an excellent job expanding our grower base.”

He noted that the increased grower base, as well as the much bigger 2020 California crop, will give Eco Farms a substantial increase in volume this year in both conventional and organic fruit. Crane added that the firm will also have more organic and conventional fruit from Peru as well. California is already in production and Eco Farms will have California fruit into September. He expects Eco to handle Peru fruit from mid-April to early September.

“Organics are a big part of our program,” he said. “Demand continues to grow.”

While there will be more organic avocados from California this year, Crane said most of the increase should be attributed to the larger crop rather than an increase in acreage. He said there is some acreage being transitioned in all three major production countries — California, Mexico and Peru — but he has not seen a huge shift in that direction. Demand for organic avocados, in fact, is outpacing supply.

In the mid-March time frame, the conventional market was very strong with 48 size fruit returning an f.o.b. price in the low to mid-$50s range. At the same time, a carton of organic fruit in that same size was selling for about $10 more per carton. The same $10 gap existed between organic and conventional fruit on the smaller end of the size curve.

Crane said that possibly because of the high price of organic fruit, bagged fruit is even more popular, relatively speaking, in the organic section of the supermarket. Bagged avocados are a trend that continues throughout the avocado sector, but he said some stores sell a lot more bagged organic avocados than individual fruit. That is usually not the case for conventional fruit.

Keeping with its commitment toward increasing the sustainability of its operation, Eco Farms is mindful of its carbon footprint and continually looks for ways to reduce the amount of packaging it uses. Crane said the firm is heartened by the increased use of returnable plastic containers by retailers and advocates for more industrial recycling of packaging.

He noted that Eco Farms only uses packaging that is 100 percent recyclable but that in the United States not all packaging that can be is recycled. “There seems to be much more industrial recycling in Europe.”

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