California Avocado Crop Size, Prices Up This Season


California’s 2022 avocado crop is expected to be about 15% larger than last year’s, and prices likely will be higher, too.

The Irvine-based California Avocado Commission expects California growers to produce 306 million pounds of avocados in 2022, up from last year’s 260 million pounds but down from 369 million pounds in 2020.

Early season prices were up about 24% over the average of the three previous years — 2019, 2020, 2021 — according to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Research Center. USDA was not yet quoting prices for California avocados in late February, but fob prices of two-layer cartons of size-48 hass avocados from Mexico were mostly $60.25-$62.25. A year ago, they were mostly $33.25-$34.25. Prices reportedly were slightly higher for California-grown fruit.

Photo courtesy California Avocado Commission
Photo courtesy Calavo Growers Inc.

Picking got off to an early start as some growers tried to capitalize on strong prices sparked by slightly lighter volume out of Mexico this season. That situation was exacerbated in mid-February when the U.S. briefly halted shipments from Mexico because of threats to the safety of USDA inspectors there. That situation was resolved after about a week, and shipments resumed.

“We have, with urgency, gotten our California deal going,” Rob Wedin said Feb. 18. He’s the executive vice president of national fresh sales for Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. Harvest started about two months earlier than originally planned but was expected to flatten out over time. The early start isn’t expected to cause an earlier end to the season. “We’re not going to peak quite as high, but I don’t anticipate us finishing early,” Wedin said. The fruit hasn’t been as large as growers – and retailers – would like, at least during the early part of the season.

“There are still challenges with sizing,” said Gahl Crane, sales director for Eco Farms, Temecula, Calif., the avocado division of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppy. Many trees were sporting size-70s and 84s rather than the 48s and 60s retailers prefer. “There’s very little interest in harvesting those sizes,” Crane said. He emphasized that not all the fruit was small, and sizing should improve as the season progresses. “A lot of the sizing issues are more in the south,” he said. “We do expect that to change come April.”

Photo courtesy Oppy
Photo courtesy Eco Farms

The quality this season has been “fine,” said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif. “We had to put more water on the trees than we would have liked to in January and early February because we haven’t had any rain,” he said. But there have not been any freezes or significant wind issues. “The last couple of years, we’ve had some wind events that have been pretty serious,” Henry said. “We’re irrigating, so we think fruit size will be OK,” he said. “It just costs more money.” As labor costs increase, some growers won’t pick any avocados until the fruit reaches preferred sizing, he said.

Volume also is up at Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif., said Donny Lucy, vice president of procurement and East Coast sales. “We’re looking forward to a great California season,” he said. Tighter supplies from Mexico opened a nice window for California to start earlier, he said. Volumewise, this was the heaviest February in four or five years, Lucy said. “The grower returns so far have been fantastic,” he said. “It’s a good start for the California growers.”

Peak season for California avocados is April to July, with good supplies still available in August. Volume starts to taper off in September, but with this season’s larger crop, heavier picking could extend into early October for northern California growers, Crane said. “It should be a pretty long, balanced season with good, steady supplies,” he said.

From The Packer