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Avocado gets visa to return home

first_imgMOORPARK – This spring, California growers started shipping avocados to the country where the fruit came from in the first place – Mexico. But while Mexico is the world’s largest producer of avocados, this isn’t like shipping coals to Newcastle, said authorities, who estimated the California avocado industry will gain $6 million to $24 million a year from the new exports. David Schwabauer, a Moorpark avocado grower and member of the California Farm Bureau board, called it a historic change. “We’ve tried and tried for years to get avocados from California into Mexico,” he said. “The Mexican consumer eats a tremendous amount of avocados.” Jim Donovan, vice president of international operations for Mission Produce in Oxnard, said the prices growers in Mexico are getting for their avocados are relatively high because their Hass growing season is ending and their supply is low. But the Hass season is at its peak in California, and there is an abundant supply, so the price here is relatively low. Donovan’s company is one of the world’s largest marketers of avocados, selling fruit produced both in California and Mexico. He said although Mission has not started shipping California avocados to Mexico yet, he hopes do start soon. “I think it potentially is great,” he said. “Creating more customers helps. Any time you can create new markets, it’s a good thing. … Selling California avocados in northern Mexico makes economic sense.” Still, a major barrier to shipping avocados back and forth across the border are pests that attack the fruit, Witney said. Avocado thrips, which apparently came from Central America and were discovered in a Ventura County orchard in the mid-1990s, spread to other parts of California and caused more than $50 million in damage here this year alone, he said. “There are hundreds of pests that evolved with this species. We had an essentially pest-free industry up until the 1990s, so we’ve always had a legitimate concern that allowing Mexican avocados into California would introduce pests,” he said. Mexican officials are also concerned about pests entering their country, and are requiring strict inspections of the fruit being imported. Although avocados have been eaten in Mexico for thousands of years, they have only become widely popular in the United States outside the Latino community in the past 30 years. California grows 95 percent of America’s avocados, and Ventura County is second only to San Diego County in avocado production. The value of Ventura County’s crop has been about $125 million a year, making it the county’s fourth-leading crop, behind strawberries, nursery stock and lemons. Avocado production has grown steadily in Ventura County and hillsides in the eastern part of the county near Moorpark and Simi Valley, areas which had only been used for grazing land but are now being planted with avocados. Although Mexican growers have been able for years to ship avocados to the United States, they are still prohibited from shipping them to the leading avocado-producing states of Florida, Hawaii and California. But in 2007, Mexican growers will be free to ship avocados to California, Witney said. Even now, there are still some Mexican states, including Michoacan, that will not allow the sale of California avocados. But next year at this time, the Hass avocados from California will be allowed in all Mexican states under the new agreement. “It’s been a contentious issue,” Witney said. [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Mexico’s decision to allow Californian avocado imports – which until now had been prohibited – is great news for the state’s growers, said U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner while announcing an agreement with Mexico on May 25. Guy Witney, a spokesman for the California Avocado Commission, said markets in northern Mexico are now buying high-quality California Hass avocados at a lower price than they could buy fruit from the Michoacan growing areas in their own country. “Over the last two weeks, several truckloads have gone into Mexico, mostly to retail chains relatively close to the border,” he said. “In terms of distance to market, California has a real advantage. It’s more convenient and less expensive to get it from California than from Michoacan.” Schwabauer agreed. “I’ve seen the avocados in the grocery stores in Baja, and they are awful,” he said. “The California groves are actually closer than the Mexican groves for the consumer there.” last_img read more

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