Avocado season ends with larger-than-expected crop


Issue Date: October 16, 2019
By Kevin Hecteman
A heat wave early in the season reduced the 2018-19 California avocado crop, but marketers say final volumes will exceed preseason estimates. The California Avocado Commission says early signs point to a larger crop in the 2019-20 season.
Photo/Kevin Hecteman

An up-and-down year for California avocado farmers and packers ended on a couple of up notes: Volume was better than expected in the wake of a 2018 heat wave, and field prices set a record.

"We were projecting in the neighborhood of 165 million pounds," said Ken Melban, vice president of industry affairs at the California Avocado Commission. "We came in in excess of 200 million pounds."

That projection came after a damaging heat wave in early July 2018, which stressed trees and caused fruit loss from Santa Barbara to San Diego counties.

As of the week ending Oct. 6, 211.4 million pounds of avocados had been harvested in California during the course of the season, which officially began last Nov. 1, according to the commission. Melban said the final tally should be about 215 million pounds.

Those who were able to harvest earned good returns.

"Pricing was extremely strong—in fact, record pricing for California grower returns," Melban said.

Growers earned an average price of $1.70 per pound, he said. The previous record, according to commission figures, was $1.60 per pound in the 2016-17 season.

Ed McFadden, who grows avocados near Fillmore, said everyone's situation differed.

"If you had a crop, it was great, but (a) fair number of California growers did not have very good crops," he said. "They got decent returns from what they had, but not enough volume to make up for it."

In his case, "we had good size, mostly because of light crop," McFadden said. "Lighter crops tend to have good size."

The upcoming season could see busier packinghouses.

Melban said the commission estimates a 365 million-pound harvest in the 2019-20 season; if the projection holds, it would be a boost over the 337.8 million pounds harvested in 2017-18.

But he was quick to qualify the projection.

"There's obviously a lot of time between now and when we start harvesting, so things can happen," Melban said.

"We've got a nice set," McFadden said. "It's not a record-breaking set, but if we get through the Santa Anas, wildfire and frost season, it's looking pretty good for next year. We are optimistic and looking forward to a good year."

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.