Flora loca avocado challenges ripeners
Mexico’s flora loca Hass avocado season is at its peak.
Philadelphia distributor John Vena Inc. (JVI), which operates a high-volume avocado program, tells FreshFruitPortal.com that while Hass avocado trees in Mexico’s Michoacán area can sustain year-round availability, they actually experience four distinct bloom periods each year.
The “first bloom” of the year is known as flora loca. “Fruit from the flora loca crop has a lower oil content, which makes it slow to mature and ripen,” said Daniel Vena, director of sales at JVI. He reported that JVI typically receives its first loads of flora loca avocados in July and that the season extends into September when there is a transition to the next bloom.
JVI operates modern avocado ripening rooms in its substantial facility within the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. The 100-year-old wholesaler and distributor handles hundreds of items and specializes in the supply of both hard and preconditioned Mexican avocados.
“Ripening avocados is at its most challenging in the summer during the flora loca season. The fruit just does not respond the same way to the preconditioning process.” Vena reported that it can often take two to three times as long to ripen fruit during this season, which can cause fluctuations in availability of ripe fruit. “Even when the nature of the avocado changes, the customer still requires the same pressure on the same timeline – and demand tends to remain high through the summer. It’s a tough season and this year is no exception.”
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Adding to the supply chain pressures, the flora loca crop tends heavily to smaller sizes. With lack of availability from California or other growing regions at this time of year, this shortage of volume can cause prices for larger fruit to increase dramatically. Vena said Aug. 11 that 48-count avocados were selling for $90 per box.
A decade ago, customers simply demanded the larger sizes of Hass avocados and cringed at offers of small fruit in the 60- and 70-count range. But in recent years, avocado suppliers have persuaded retailers and foodservice operators to be more flexible in what they accept.
Value is the main driver for the increased acceptance of small fruit, but the food waste movement has also provided a convenient marketing message. “Why would a consumer cut a big avocado, eat only half and leave the rest to brown when they could just buy a smaller one and eat the whole thing?”
Vena confirmed that the mid-August Hass avocado market “is on fire” and while prices are elevated, demand remains strong. He expects to see a typical cooling of the market in September when the transition to the aventajada crop occurs.