The head of the California Avocado Commission (CAC) is optimistic for the 2018 avocado season with volumes set to nearly double, but high levels of supply may present challenges.
CAC president Tom Bellamore said the industry was forecast to produce 374 million pounds of the fruit, up from just 215 million pounds last year when production was cut in half largely due to alternate bearing.
The increase this season comes despite the industry’s being ravaged by Mother Nature over recent months, including strong winds and some of the worst wildfires in the state’s history.
“There certainly have been losses because of those events – property losses as well as fruit losses – however on an industry-wide scale we’re probably off 5% or so from what we had anticipated,” he told Fresh Fruit Portal.
He explained the fire damage on orchards varied widely, ranging from those that will have to be replanted to others that can likely be rehabilitated.
“I think it takes some time to manifest itself as far as whether the trees will survive or not, so I think in some cases it’s still to be determined I guess,” he said.
The coming season is running earlier than last year, Bellamore said, with ‘significant volume’ expected in March and maybe even in February too.
“We’re excited to have promotable volumes of fruit,” he said.
“There’s good demand for the California avocados along the trade, and it’s always tough when you have little supply like we did last year, so we’re looking forward to working with our trading partners to move the volume this year.
“It’s going to be a more challenging market I think because the overall U.S. supply will be higher this year – there’s lots of fruit from Mexico and there’ll be fruit from Peru and Chile, but we’re optimistic. We think California’s carved out its spot in the market and we believe sales should be stronger and the fruit should perform well going through the season.”
California avocados are expected to remain in the U.S. market until at least September, he added.
A representative of Mexico’s avocado industry in December said exports to the U.S. during the 2017-18 season were expected to rise 8% year-on-year to 835,000 metric tons (MT), putting them on par with the 2015-16 deal.
Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM) advisor Ramon Paz also said the second half of 2017 had been characterized by volatility in the U.S. market, but Bellamore said it seems the situation is slowly improving.
“I do believe that for the last couple of weeks there’s been a little more stability, but it certainly has been a volatile start,” he said, pointing out that the December to March period typically saw more market fluctuation than other times in the year.
Bellamore added the growing season had been much drier than the previous year, and growers were now hoping for some rains because the winter draws to a close.