By Noi Mahoney of FreightWaves,
In the months leading up to Super Bowl LV, demand for avocados was stronger than ever, said Aaron Acosta, corporate relationship manager at Stonehill Produce in Pharr, Texas.Currently, Mexico is the only country in the market shipping avocados, as Peru, Chile and California have finished their seasons.
“We’re probably looking at about an 8% increase from last year. In overall volume it’s like we didn’t miss a beat, even with the coronavirus,” Acosta told FreightWaves. “We definitely have the support of retailers who usually set aside promotions for the Super Bowl, which is helping us move some incredible volume this year.”
Stonehill Produce imports Hass avocados from the state of Michoacán in central Mexico, where more than 80% of Mexico’s avocados originate.
Last year, Mexico exported 74,000 tons of avocados prior to the Super Bowl, according to the Mexican Avocado Producers and Packers (APEAM). This year, around 1,360 weekly avocado shipments have been made during the weeks before the game, equivalent to a truck leaving Michoacán every seven minutes for the U.S., according to APEAM.
“Although 2020 represented a year of challenges for all economic sectors worldwide, Mexican avocado exports maintained a good growth rate, increasing by 12% during the second half of 2020, compared to 2019, when 551,226 tons of avocados were shipped,” APEAM said in a statement.
After the avocados are picked and packaged in Michoacán, they are brought over through the Mexican border to the U.S., usually either through the ports of entry in Laredo or Pharr, Texas.
There was a run-up in outbound tender rejections in the Laredo and the McAllen and Pharr markets as the Super Bowl approached.
Another key border crossing in Texas – the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge – has been seeing record breaking commercial traffic fueled largely by trade in fresh produce, especially avocados, bridge director Luis Bazán told FreightWaves.
“We are averaging over 2,600 trucks from Mexico to the U.S. on a daily basis,” Bazán said.
The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge broke southbound commercial traffic records in December by almost 11,000 more trucks compared to December 2019, Bazán said.
The bridge is located in South Texas, crossing the Rio Grande River and the U.S.-Mexico border. It connects the city of Pharr in Texas, with the city of Reynosa, Mexico.
Avocado importers in Pharr, including Index Fresh, B&M, La Villita, Tanciteros, La Bonanza, URAPA Avocados, JBR Avocados, Stonehill Produce, Mevi Avocados – averaged 1,500 loads weekly in January, Bazán said.
“January avocado imports through Pharr averaged around 6,000 loads at 40,000-pounds per load, we crossed 240,000,000-pounds leading up to Super Bowl weekend,” Bazán said. “That’s roughly 45% of all fresh avocados from Mexico crossing through Pharr.”
Avocados are usually in demand prior to the Super Bowl because guacamole is a popular snack for fans watching the game, according to the Dallas-based trade group Avocados from Mexico (AFM).
Football fans consume an astounding 105 million pounds of avocados — mostly in the form of guacamole dip — during the big game, AFM said.
Acosta said he expects the strong demand for avocados from Mexico to continue even after the Super Bowl.
“The retail sector is just booming right when it comes to food; people are just enjoying avocados at home,” Acosta said. “This year, we’re looking at some historically low pricing on a per-unit basis, because we’ve got a much larger crop of avocados in Michoacán this year. That’s helping us move more units at a slightly lower price per unit.”
Acosta said he expects Mexico to export about 1.5 billion pounds of avocados for the entire season, which runs from September to July. “We’re anxiously awaiting for the food service industry to come back, anticipating for that to pick back up so we can bring in more avocados,” Acosta said.