Friday, June 10, 2011

Growers eye higher volumes

Excerpts from a 5/30/11 article in The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

A large crop will allow stronger promotions

After successive years of shorter than normal crops, Florida avocado growers expect the new season to bring regular volume.

The 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons saw crops of 914,000 bushels and 855,000 bushels, respectively, less than the typical season production of nearly 1 million bushels.

Because of extreme January and February cold, the 2010-11 season saw smaller production and shipments ending earlier than normal, growers said. The cold temperatures cut yields and delayed volume, similar to what occurred with other Florida crops such as tomatoes. That scenario produced higher prices and fewer retail promotions.

Conversely, grower-shipper estimates predict this season's crop will be 20% bigger than last year's, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals, LLC. He added that 2011-12 should bring a 1.2 million bushel harvest.

"All of the customers we have talked with are very excited about the promotional opportunities that will be available this year if we have a normal crop," Brindle said in mid-May. "They just can't wait for the season to get started."

Although growers usually start harvesting small quantities in late May, regular harvesting typically begins in early to mid-June with bigger commercial retail-promotable volumes commencing in late June.

A large July crop should makes for strong promotions, Brindle said. Retail customers plan to promote Florida avocados throughout July and August, the months that typically see the largest season volumes, he said.

With a larger crop, growers and retailers should look for more month-long promotions. Brindle said 2007-08 was the last year the industry had enough volume to support such volumes.

Brooks plans to ship around 500,000 bushels this season, up from last season's 410,000 bushels.