The events which led to a suspension of imports of Mexican avocados into the U.S. have indeed helped speed the harvest of the California avocado crop. However, this trend had started before the haltage, and smaller fruit size could temper how fast growers move.
Ken Melban, vice president of industry affairs for the California Avocado Commission (CAC) told Fresh Fruit Portal that the industry was already seeing a harvest unfold earlier than normal this year, with strong pricing ahead of the Superbowl driving the trend.
“By the end of last week (Feb. 20, 2022) we are about 20 million pounds over what we thought we would be atat, but that was going back to the fruit coming off the tree with teh pricing being strong,” Melban said.
Then, following the USDA’s decision to halt inspections of avocados in Michoacán, and therefore their shipments across the border, there was anxiety and uncertainty to the supply of the coveted fruit to U.S. consumers.
This anxiety was more among trade and retail partners than consumers, peaking on the same Friday when imports were able to resume. The lasting effect is still yet to be seen.
“It is early to know what is going to happen due to the shutdown. The size curve is not quite what growers would like it to be. So that might temper the response. Hopefully it will turn out to be just a speed bump and the market will return to where it was and we can have a steady flow of the fruit off the trees,” he added.
There is some concern that following the gap in supply from Mexico there could be an influx of shipments and tank the market prices and affect the California avocado.
However Melban says he is cautiously optimistic that a tempered approach will prevail among growers to avoid overstocking. He did concede though that any grower is interested in getting a good price for their product.
Another supply consideration that is coming for 2022 for the U.S. market is the entrance of avocados grown in Jalisco, Mexico. Melban said that this is a development that is a long time coming, but does not expect it to result in a material change in how the supply chain operates.
Instead it could cause a reshuffling of where fruit is destined for. With Jalisco grown avocados heading to the U.S. it means other regions like Europe, the traditional receiver of these avocados, could see a window for growers from other countries to fill the diverted shipments there and does not see significant impact for the California avocado industry.
The California Avocado Commission recently published pre-season harvest projections for 2022, and expects a 306-million-pound crop, which is nearly a 15 percent increase over the last fiscal year.