Monday, June 1, 2009

Florida avocado growers expecting slower start to season

Excerpts from an 05/29/2009 article in The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — After a drier-than-normal winter and spring, Florida avocado grower-shippers expect a slower than usual start to mark the opening of this year’s deal.They also hope early season rains improve sizings.

Growers started initial pickings in late May, shipping limited quantities.Volume builds throughout June with larger quantities by the end of the month and promotable retail volume beginning the second week of July. The deal’s peak typically begins in July. Promotable volume normally ends by early January with smaller volumes running through February.

Alan Flinn, administrator of the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, said a committee of industry growers and handlers expects the industry to ship 1 million bushels of avocados this season, or 4.4 million equivalent 12.5-pound flats, down a little from last season’s 1.1 million bushels.

In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the state produced an average 1.09 million bushels crop.Florida produces a different variety of larger-sized avocados than the West Coast-produced hass varieties.

“We should have a very good start for the season, and prices should be good and go back to the growers,” Flinn said. “We are in a little bit of a drought and are hoping for rain. Most groves are under irrigation but some growers don’t have irrigation, so we really need the rain if we can get it.”

Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc., said the earlier part of the season’s lack of rain isn’t as important as rain the groves could receive in May and June. Those rains, he said in mid-May, are important to fruit sizings.

A couple of hours of freezing temperatures in January and February were enough to damage flowers and produce less size and fruit during the early part of the deal, Brindle said. He said he expects normal sizing, with 12s common in July and 10s dominant in August and September.

“This year is looking good for Florida avocados,” Brindle said. “The season should be similar to last year, but it may start slower. The cold weather we had won’t amount to a crop failure.”Brooks started its first pickings in a light way on May 20. Brooks this season plans to ship more than 500,000 bushels, about half of the deal’s avocados.

Brindle said the deal could open as high as $22 a flat early in the season. By July, the deal can fall to $7 a flat, he said. Brindle said Brooks can often command high early-season prices because the grower-shipper often has fruit earlier than other shippers in late May and early June. By the time others begin shipments, prices in mid-June can hit $15-18, he said.

Florida is typically responsible for 9% to 18% of U.S. avocado acreage.