Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Avocado demand continues to rise

Excerpts from The Packer article of 4/28/08
by Jim Offner

Although Mexico, Chile and California have come to dominate the avocado business in recent years, with year-round production, Florida continues to generate volumes in the 1 million-bushel range each year.

This year, according to the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, based in Homestead, Fla., production volume for the upcoming season-it generally runs from June through March - is expected to be 1 million 55-pound bushels.

Florida markets a green-skinned fruit with a yellow-green flesh that, it says, is "creamy, with a slightly nutty flavor."

"They're big avocados," said Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals. "They're very popular, especially on the East Coast. A lot of people in Hispanic markets know these avocados because they're used to them in their cooking back home."

Brooks markets a Florida-grown variety that has origins in the Caribbean and is shipped under the SlimCado brand, Ostlund said.

"They're grown in South Dade County, which is the only area that commercially grows them in the U.S.," she said. "The Dominican Republic grows them, but shipping these avocados is tough. It really pays to have them in-country, so to speak."

Florida fruit differs from the hass avocados that are associated with California, Chile and Mexico, Ostlund said.

"The hass avocado looks different," she said. "It's bumpier and, as it ripens, it turns dark and is much smaller and has a much larger seed per pound of flesh. The SlimCado keeps its green, even when ripe. You have to squeeze it and it gives as a way of telling you that it's ripe."

Brooks sells about 70% of the avocados grown in the South Dade County region, Ostlund said.

"We either grow these ourselves, or manage the growth of those who grow them," she said. "Or, we pick the ones others grow. You have to meet the rigid guidelines set by the USDA."