(Ventura County, Ca) Ventura County growers of lemons, avocados, and tomatoes are in the midst of growing season and the heat wave has missed some and hit others square between the eyes.
“In Spring 2017, our lemon bloom was set for this year. They were bunched very tightly which led to a very big pick earlier this year,” explains Alex Teague, Chief Operating Officer for Santa Paula based citrus company, Limoneira. “We had harvested about 94-95% by the time the event hit. Volume from Argentina didn’t materialize and Chile sent their product to Asia. So we have a situation where heat has hit this picking but we foresee this as only a 4-6 week issue.
The current lemon market’s top USDA grade product now costs about $50 per carton in the current market.
“It is good for business in the short term but we don’t want this to linger,” shared Teague. “Our desert business starts at the beginning of September and should be fine. The real challenge is the young fruit set for the 2019 harvest will be impacted but we don’t know how much at this point.”
Avocado season is in full swing. As most growers will tell you, Avocados are a “goldilocks” crop that don’t like it too hot or too cold. Any noticeable temperature change can result in bruising and other quality and damage issues.
The Voice La Voz Newspaper reached out to Calavo Growers in Santa Paula for comment and the company stated, “We have no comment at this time.”
Avocados for 2019
Mission Produce’s Grower Relations Manager, Chris Dryden shared the devastation being felt by California avocado growers from Goleta to San Diego.
“This season is bad but what is worst is that it will be impact the 2019 season as well.”
Dryden shared that 90% of the avocados in retail stores today are from outside California. So this likely will not affect consumers.
“About 25-35% of our volume typically comes from California. But next year might be 5-6% after this heat wave.” Dryden explained that Mission Avocados has operations around the world including Mexico, Peru, and Chile.
The bigger issue has to do with how it will affect local growers. “This heat is not just affecting the fruit this year but also impacting the trees. We are losing our set for next year.” He went on to explain that labor continues to be an issue in California and if pickers cannot pick, they will move on. These pickers usually transition from one crop to another as picking seasons change. So if this crop stops, another crop may lose its pickers.
“The labor market is very tough. We participate in the H2A program for our pickers. That means we supply housing and bought housing with bunk beds and transportation and the whole deal. It’s very tough. Lots of turn over. Its everywhere. We need all the labor we can get,” shared Dryden.
He continued, “Everyone is looking for labor. You even see the Denny’s and IHOP’s looking for people.”
Buyers of Lemons and Avocados are sending advisories to their customers. FreshPoint, Inc, the largest purchaser of produce in the nation and owned by Houston based, Sysco Foods, tweeted for customers to perhaps switch to limes where possible.
The tweet read, “FreshPress Alert #lemons: A series of unusual weather events has devastated the domestic #lemon crop. Lemons that are available will be poor quality, including excessive skin scarring and off sizes. We encourage substituting #limes when possible.
No tweets could be found with advisories related to avocados or avocado substitutions.
UPDATE (July 26): Mission Produce originally did not immediately return our call when the article was first published. They did reply after the article was made public. Their comments are now added above.
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