Grower-led halt to Mexican avocados an “extreme situation”

Grower-led halt to Mexican avocados an “extreme situation”


See updated content: Avocado harvest resumes in Mexico.

UPDATED: A group of “dissident growers” of avocados in Mexico are impeding harvest crews from entering orchards, and importers say inventories are dropping quickly.

“Prices are going up because the perception is that the availability is running out,” Rob Wedin, vice president of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., said Oct. 31. “We’re watching it every day and we’re raising prices every day.”

He called it an “extreme situation.”

Growers for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., had not harvested the week of Oct. 29 as of halfway through the week, putting the company “on pins and needles” waiting for a resolution, Brent Scattini, vice president of sales and marketing, said Oct. 31.

While avocados can stay on trees longer than other types of tree fruit, a long delay can affect the next season’s harvest, Scattini said.

“With the amount of crop that’s out, there are risks in doing that,” he said.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t last any more than this week,” he said.

APEAM, the Association of Producers and Exporter of Avocados from Mexico, sent a statement to U.S. importers on Oct. 30.

“ … Very little harvesting operations have taken place yesterday and today,” according to the statement, which details how harvest crews are being denied access to orchards. In some cases, trucks that were able to get to harvest were retained later in the day.

Wedin said APEAM is “trying to get a reasonable dialogue going,” but in the statement, the group said efforts have been unsuccessful.

“They are limited on what they can do,” Wedin said.

In the statement, APEAM blames the same group of growers for similar tactics in 2016, going so far as to occupy APEAM offices. While that hasn’t happened in the recent protest, the message about concerns over low wages is the same.

“They are being led by a few people who want to remain ignorant about the realities of markets and who, in bad faith, blame APEAM and the packers for those perceived low prices,” according to the APEAM statement.

Shipments in late October were ahead of last season, with total shipments to the U.S. since July 1 up 18%. Shipments the week of Oct. 21 were more than 42 million pounds, and average more than 39 million pounds in the past month, according to APEAM.

Illegal fruit?

Several Mexican media outlets, including the newspaper El Universal, said the growers are protesting the illegal exports of avocados from outside Michoacan to the U.S. and other countries. 

According to the article — translated into English-langauge online publications, the growers are blocking roads to stop the influx of avocados into the state. Michoacan is the only state allowed to export avocados to the U.S.

Jose Luis Mata, a representative for an avocado growers’ association, said that a majority of growers are striking because of “corruption” that’s allowing the export of the non-Michoacan fruit, at a lower price.

Mata told El Universal the stoppage would continue until the flow of avocados from other states stops.

Tom Burfield contributed to this article.