U.S. interest rising in Peruvian avocado programs, says Mission Produce exec

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U.S. interest rising in Peruvian avocado programs, says Mission Produce exec

U.S.-based company Mission Produce says next season will likely be its 'first full avocado harvest' from Peru, coinciding with a push from the industry to diversify supply sources in the wake of the recent Mexican conflict. 

Mission Produce director of sales Patrick Cortes

Mission Produce director of sales Patrick Cortes

A row between growers and exporters in the major Mexican growing region of Michoacan in October led to a dramatic fall in supply levels in the U.S. market and sharp price rises across several weeks.

Speaking to www.freshfruitportal.com at last week's New York Produce Show and Conference, director of sales Patrick Cortes said Mission had been investing heavily in Peru over recent years in order to guarantee continual supply.

"We’re the largest grower of Peruvian avocados. We’ve planted almost 3,000 hectares  and a lot of that was simply because seven, eight, nine years ago we saw this volatility during the summer months," he said.

"So now we have a lot of customers that are very interested in our Peruvian programs because they know they don’t have to worry about supply. We’re not going on strike - we’re going to harvest it, pack it and ship it, so I think that’s been probably the biggest impact to the strike."

He said the conflict in Mexico earlier this year led to a lot of sleepless nights, but believed the biggest detriment was to Mexico as opposed to the category as a whole.

"Avocados have really good traction worldwide and in North America, so I don’t think there was going to be any lasting impact to demand in that regard," he said.

"But in talking to a lot of customers worldwide, they’re a lot more interested in finding alternative sources of supply where it’s not as chaotic or volatile."

With volumes rising from its Peruvian production, Cortes hopes the impacts of any future disruptions to supply during the summer months will be minimized.

Mission's oldest plantings in the country are around six years old, with some others having gone in the ground a couple of years ago, he said.

"These trees are just coming to full maturity. This upcoming season will be really our first full harvest in terms of fully commercial volumes," Cortes said.

"You get the first harvest after about three years but as they mature that’s when they start to increase their yields as they get older and older."

He added the company would be expanding its Peruvian hectarage, and was considering planting another crop in the country. As yet however, he said that potential crop was 'to be determined'.

Mission also has an equal partnership with one of Chile's leading avocado growers, Cabilfrut, which owns its own production and buys from third-party growers.

The Chilean season gets going roughly as the Peruvian deal comes to an end around September and lasts through February.

The company also has production in New Zealand, but Cortes said that is mainly used to supplement the Asian business.

"Not much of it comes to North America, so whenever the Mexican or the Peruvian season ends we’ll use New Zealand to satisfy our customer base in Asia," he said.

But despite efforts to diversify supply sources away from Mexico, Cortes emphasized Mexico was 'not going anywhere'.

"They’re up to around 120,000 hectares and they’re planting more. It still represents around 75% of what comes into North America," he said.

"But diversification is the key. We want to have dual sources of supply for ever region - that’s the plan."

The company is opening a new ripening center in Calgary, Canada, to complement the numerous ones it already has across the U.S. and Mexico, and also plans to open ones in the Netherlands and China in the first half of next year.

"We’ve got a lot of plans. There's a big expansion with a lot of capital investment," he said.

Related story: The Hass Horn: Impacts of the Mexican avocado strike

U.S.: How will the Mexican strike affect other avocado suppliers?



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