California avocados: Cautious optimism ahead of 2021 season

California avocados: Cautious optimism ahead of 2021 season

California avocados: Cautious optimism ahead of 2021 season

The California Avocado Commission (CAC) is tentatively optimistic about the 2021 season, predicting an average-sized crop but also potential weather and market challenges.

According to CAC President Tom Bellamore, the upcoming season is expected to pull in 325 million lbs, a decrease from the previous year’s 365 million lbs. 

Despite the good volumes, however, 2020’s avocado season was fraught with difficulties due to the global pandemic and other factors. Still, according to Bellamore, it was better than expected for some growers.

“With respect to the year we're just finishing, given the circumstances I think the season went relatively well,” he told FreshFruitPortal.com. 

“For each grower, it depended on when they harvested their production and when they came on the market. So for example, in the early part of the season, the very early part, February of 2020, the market was strong, the pricing was good."

But he added that the same could not be said for the mid to late season. Covid-19 caused months of disruption in the marketplace among trade customers. Even when things finally began to stabilize there was more fruit in the market from import sources such as Peru and Mexico. 

Now moving into 2021, the crop projection is of a reasonable size that should be easy to market. However, Bellamore said there is still reason for caution for the California avocado industry.

One potential issue for growers could be a lack of rainfall. Weather predictions for the region north to south are dryer this year and winter rains are typically depended on to keep trees robust.

Additionally, the obstacle of Covid-19 remains, especially with cases currently surging in the U.S. But Bellamore is hopeful that, once a vaccine is made available and distributed, conditions can begin to return to normal. 

“I think what our expectation is, for the first quarter or two of 2021, it's going to continue to be difficult for restaurants and retailers are certainly seeing strong demand as the foodservice restaurant business shifts to [consumers] eating at home,” he said. “The retail sector stayed strong, but even there, there's uncertainty."

Still, a California avocado crop of 325 million pounds next season would mean fewer concerns about the quality of the fruit and its freshness.

Bellamore stated that a crop of this size will likely be delivered primarily into the western U.S. There, high-quality fruit can be delivered fresh, a good sign if other market factors are returning to normal.

“I guess we're optimistic about how next year could go,” Bellamore said. “We are a little worried about the overall volume in the marketplace from all sources, but hopefully, people pay attention to that and are disciplined in the market.”

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