HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — From your morning avocado toast to the guac served at a local restaurant, avocados have become a staple in the Texas diet, putting the state at the top of the list for consumers of Mexican avocados.
California and Texas are the top two markets when it comes to the consumption of avocados from Mexico.
Consumers in both markets are also the shrewdest at selecting, handling and preparing them, said Ron Campbell, executive director of the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association.
Simply put, Texans know all about avocados.
Houston-based renowned chef and restauranteur Sylvia Casares prefers Mexican avocados for their creaminess and butteriness.
“They’re creamier, more buttery and yeah they’re just perfect,” she said. “And I have a cooking school and I talk about Mexican avocados in my cooking classes and I just tell them that they’re indigenous to Mexico. They are grown in California… and they’re an imitation.
“The soil, the temperature, the rain is a critical part of how we get these amazing avocados.”
So, why do Mexican avocados taste so good?
Oil content is what makes the avocado taste good, Campbell said. The oil content is based on dry matter content. If dry matter content is not 23% or higher, Mexico will not ship.
“That’s the level where the taste and the quality is at its highest,” he said.
That focus on taste and quality is important to growers keen on maintaining dominance in the U.S. market, where an appetite for aguacate has demanded more than 2.3 billion pounds of avocados be imported from Mexico this year alone.
A growing appetite for avocados from Mexico
Over the past 15 years, avocado imports have increased by 15% every year. Campbell attributes this to consumers gravitating toward healthier diets and understanding the health benefits of avocados.
The United States has the highest volume of avocado imports in the world, and industry promotion group Avocados from Mexico said eight out of 10 avocados consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico. The gap is filled primarily by avocados from California, Peru and Chile. In 2020, Mexico’s avocados led the market, with California and Peru following, a report from the Avocado Institute of Mexico stated.
According to the report, the growth in Mexican import volume is accompanied by a broadening of the seasonal pattern of Mexican imports to almost consistent year-round availability. Avocado imports, particularly from Mexico, tend to peak in the winter and spring months when California avocados are out of season, the report stated.
Campbell said California benefits from imports of Mexican avocados with over $887 million in value added to their state economy and over 7,900 jobs.
In Texas, there is over $380 million value added to the state economy from Mexican avocado imports. The Hass avocados also make up nearly 4,000 jobs in the state.
The 2021/22 fiscal year figures show that the total economic output from the imports of Mexican Hass Avocados in Texas accounts for over $714 million.
Events such as the Super Bowl also tend to create peaks in shipment.
Imports from Peru peak in the summer while imports from Chile provide a winter enhancement of domestic supplies. An influx of avocados from the Dominican Republic and New Zealand are also common.
California is the only state in the U.S. that produces Hass avocados and makes up less than 10% of the avocados consumed domestically, Campbell said. California produces about 250 million pounds annually.
Mexico makes up for 80% of the avocados consumed in the United States with another 10% coming from foreign origins, Campbell said.
Michoacan and Jalisco are the only two states that grow avocados in Mexico. Michoacan is by far the largest producer of avocados in the world, Campbell said, with Jalisco, just gaining access to the U.S. market this year.
Avocado’s contribution to the U.S. economy
Based on a study conducted by Texas A&M, U.S. imports of Mexican Hass avocados contribute to the U.S. economy as trade moves through the food supply chain and stimulates various market activities.
According to a 2022 Economic Report from Avocados from Mexico, imports of avocados from Mexico contribute $6 billion to U.S. GDP and generate $11.2 billion in U.S. economic output.
The importation of avocados has also created over 58,299 U.S. jobs.
From the moment an avocado is picked from the tree a ripple effect takes place creating revenue for the picker, packager, driver, importer, distributor and others in between. There are a wide variety of industries that are associated with moving that avocado from the tree to the consumer’s table.
“It really shows that that trade works,” Campbell said about the impact that the importation of avocados has on the economy. “It helps so many different industries throughout the supply chain. Not just the growers, packers and importers. …There’s a whole lot of other people in between in a supply chain that benefits from the import of avocados from Mexico.”
From farm to table in a matter of days
According to Avocados from Mexico, farmers in Mexico only ship fruit, when it’s ready to be picked — which is not possible from growers farther abroad. Foreign fruit from other countries has to be shipped based on the schedule of a boat.
However, truckers can haul Mexican avocados quickly to U.S., giving them the luxury of shipping when the oil content is at its best, Campbell said.
“I think it’s about consumer preference with avocados from Mexico,” he said, “because of the freshness and the quality of the commodity. It can come from the farm to the table in about four days.”
This sentiment seems to be shared by Casares, owner of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston.
In her restaurants, Casares uses avocados to make guacamole with tomato; pica-mole, which is like pico de gallo with cubed avocados; and Frontera guacamole, which is guacamole with a pile of cilantro, a pile of onions, a pile of tomatoes, and a pile jalapeños. Also, she utilizes avocados in a few of her signature sauces.
Since 1995, the Texas chef has bought her avocados from Houston Avocado, which is good about timing the ripening process and offering fair pricing, she said.
“It’s in the front of my customer’s eyes and I don’t want to serve anything that’s not the best quality,” Casares said. “It’s how I got my name, how I developed my brand.”
There is a short period of time during the year when Mexican avocados are not readily available to her businesses, she said.
“Occasionally we have to buy avocados from Chile … and they’re not that good,” Casares said. “You notice it, the flavor. They don’t hold up. They turn dark real quick, but we don’t have a choice. So, for a short time, we have to do it but my strong preference is avocados from Mexico.”