Heads up! It’s shoulder season…
We’re not even half way through September yet, but there’s a reason why those of us in the avocado importing world really can’t wait for it to end. September’s always a massive pain of a month. You see, there’s a lot of weight on our shoulders.
The season’s shoulders, that is. That’s the name we give to the beginning and end of harvest time for a source country. September is a major swapover month when the steady availability of fruit goes all a bit random.
Through the spring and summer months we get predictable and reliable volumes of beautiful Hass avocados from our grower partners in South Africa and Peru. We add our fabulous Colombian fruit to the mix and unless there’s been some really weird weather in one of our source countries then we’re able to offer steady volumes and to ‘turn it up’ with exciting promotions with our retailers to attract new customers and drive more sales.
From late September we get into our Chilean fruit sources and our main crop from Colombia. Off we go again then with great fruit through until spring. But getting through September is never easy. More so this year.
Avocado sales in supermarkets normally drop back in August with everyone going on holiday, but because almost everyone had to cancel their holiday plans, demand stayed much higher than it would normally be. Planning teams would usually have more fruit around to cover the tricky weeks, but the avocado addicts ate rather more than anyone could have predicted through August. The good weather helped keep demand for salad products nice and high.
It should be a nice problem to have, and we really shouldn’t moan when business is clearly booming for avocados. The difficulty is that there’s a finite number of top quality avocados available (particularly in certain sizes of fruit) and that lots of people want them! This nudges the prices up and means we’re all chasing the same fruit. There’s a fair bit around if you’ve got the right grower partners, but it’s the mid-sized fruit that’s the most sought after. That’s the size that goes in the popular twin packs and which forms the bread and butter of the supermarket offer.
This year saw a lot of young trees coming into production from new plantings in Peru. Young trees are extremely enthusiastic in their performance, but typically produce much larger fruit! This isn’t suitable for those twin pack offers so we have to make sure we’ve got great relationships with producers in other sources who can send us what we need. Step forward our Kenyan friends, for example. They’ve been really valuable this year and have bent over backwards to help make sure we get the right fruit in time.
We’ve had the very welcome news that our new season Chilean fruit is ‘on the water’ and will be with us soon. Our main crop harvest from our Colombian business partners, Cartama, has begun earlier than last year. This is going to be particularly helpful, bringing us a real point of difference as the fruit quality is nothing short of excellent and volumes available are high. It’s just starting to feel like the end of this September strife is in sight.
We haven’t missed an order yet (in fact we’re covering rather a lot for other suppliers at the moment). We’re very pleased to have kept our own brand of ripe and ready avocados seamlessly supplied, and we’re grateful to our customers for their tolerance around some of the price fluctuation that the shoulders have inflicted on the market. We assure you it will get better!