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Fallbrook’s Shrinking Avocado

Since the first avocado trees were planted in 1912, Fallbrook’s avocado industry’s been thriving. The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce estimates annual sales near $26 million. However, due to water-access issues, the size of the average avocado is shrinking.

Growers from San Diego to San Louis Obispo are seeing a significant reduction in the size of the fruit. This year’s harvest, though comparable to last year’s in quantity, is yielding lower profits due to smaller fruit.   

A carton of avocados is currently earning up to $35, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year, prices reached as high as $50 per carton.  Thus, local distributors are importing larger varieties from south of the border in hopes of pushing carton prices back up.

About 5000 California avocado growers farm nearly 60,000 acres, producing 90 percent of the country’s avocado crop. According to the California Avocado Commission, approximately 49 percent of the state’s output is grown in San Diego County. With agricultural water rates in the county 30 times higher than in neighboring counties, however, local farmers pay a premium for water to be imported from upstate or the Colorado River.  

San Diego farmers have reduced their collective water consumption significantly over the past decade; still, some farmers have had to chop down trees to minimize their operating expense.  

Almost all growers in the state market their produce through small packing houses, like Fallbrook distributor Del Rey Avocado. Del Rey packs over 1 million cartons each year, accounting for 10 percent of the state's general avocado market and about 30 percent of the state’s organic avocado market.

Distributors are estimating that more than 400 million cartons of the diminutive California avocados will be sold this year, ranking 2012 as an average production year.

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Since the first avocado trees were planted in 1912, Fallbrook’s avocado industry’s been thriving. The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce estimates annual sales near $26 million. However, due to water-access issues, the size of the average avocado is shrinking.

Growers from San Diego to San Louis Obispo are seeing a significant reduction in the size of the fruit. This year’s harvest, though comparable to last year’s in quantity, is yielding lower profits due to smaller fruit.   

A carton of avocados is currently earning up to $35, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year, prices reached as high as $50 per carton.  Thus, local distributors are importing larger varieties from south of the border in hopes of pushing carton prices back up.

About 5000 California avocado growers farm nearly 60,000 acres, producing 90 percent of the country’s avocado crop. According to the California Avocado Commission, approximately 49 percent of the state’s output is grown in San Diego County. With agricultural water rates in the county 30 times higher than in neighboring counties, however, local farmers pay a premium for water to be imported from upstate or the Colorado River.  

San Diego farmers have reduced their collective water consumption significantly over the past decade; still, some farmers have had to chop down trees to minimize their operating expense.  

Almost all growers in the state market their produce through small packing houses, like Fallbrook distributor Del Rey Avocado. Del Rey packs over 1 million cartons each year, accounting for 10 percent of the state's general avocado market and about 30 percent of the state’s organic avocado market.

Distributors are estimating that more than 400 million cartons of the diminutive California avocados will be sold this year, ranking 2012 as an average production year.

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Comments
17

Great article!! It's too bad that agriculture and the county can't get together and work out some kind of mutually benefical solution. Good info there!!

June 14, 2012

My vote is that the County begin permitting the reclamation of the mucho grey-water put out by hospitals and hotels specifically for distribution to local farms.

Thanks for reading and commenting, jemsd.

June 14, 2012

so sad...going the way of the orange groves

i had an aunt and uncle who had a large avocado orchard in Fallbrook in the day...my sister and i used to play hide and seek under the trees in the leaves

good plan about the grey water Ruth...orange and avocado trees use to line the highway from San Diego to Orange county north...and to the Laguna's east

i miss those days of a mainly agricultural county

vegetable truck farms were all that existed on the Otay Mesa back then...how things have change!!

June 14, 2012

I wonder the difficulty in transporting the grey water from the source to a reclamation facility and then to our local farms? I'm glad someone is at least thinking about and offering solutions to just what alternatives are out there. It was a good read.

June 14, 2012

Oh, I'm hardly the first. I wrote and article about it previously and referenced a report the Fed's contracted that ran the math, etc. It's strictly up to local governments now. Currently, the County allows residential laundry grey water to be used in exterior landscaping, and they conduct monthly classes for trades folks to learn how to make such adaptations. However, I'm talking about large scale collection by the largest grey water producers.

June 14, 2012

I think the first question that needs to be answered is why are San Diego County farms paying 30 times more than neighboring counties for their water? The water district is the one who should be asked why they are extorting local farmers. Unless that issue gets resolved, I don't see much of a future for the "diminutive" California avocado. And when that term starts getting around, the future looks even bleaker.

The same thing is happening here in the City of SD with property owners getting screwed royally by the Metropolitan Water District. Apartment owners are so fed up with constantly increasing water bills, they are now passing the charges onto their tenants. It's no secret that water has historically been dealt like heroin to Southern California municipalities, but what I'd like to know is why is San Diego viewed as the fattest pig to poke?

June 14, 2012

joe i heard that it it's ballooning pensions that have hiked the water rates...

and i think our avocados make the best guacamole!

June 15, 2012

Now, Nan, pension rates are not the fault of everything, but you are right about our avocados making the best guac. Of course, that is largely a consequence of the shots of tequila you must imbibe to make the guacamole properly. Ole' Baby!

June 15, 2012

oh Joe...i'm going to have to thrash my husband Bobby soundly...he told me it was pensions that 'cause the prob with water rates

hhhmmm maybe we should ask Don Bauder about it...he's written some columns about the water rates

None

get away from my Tequila shots Joe!!!

June 15, 2012

I believe the UT reported yesterday that rate increases for residential water were due to pensions. That may have been where Bobby gleaned that information.

June 15, 2012

well he reads the paper thru and thru everyday Roody so i think ur right...

June 15, 2012

altho Don Bauder says that's only one in a series of reasons that rates have gone up

Bauder quote:The rise in the cost of water is not directly related to the pension problem. There are a number of factors in the rise of the cost of water: one is that the Colorado River is not providing enough water for Southern California, Arizona, and other areas. The San Diego County Water Authority has made some mistakes also

June 15, 2012

Right. Everyone will say, "We are at the end of the pipeline," and that's why we get charged premiums. But, water had been a political issue throughout history. Reasons/excuses aside, I am an advocate of self sufficiency and would like to see San Diego break free from out of state water dependency and begin employing some serious innovation in resolving our own problems. If desalination is cost prohibitive, then it seems logical to look at grey water for irrigation. AND for toilets. To this day we still put clean drinking water into our toilets--which has seemed sacrilegious to me since I was first taught the basics of living off the land, i.e. "don't sh*t where you drink". The best of 'green' buildings use grey water or roof run off (where they get it). Catalina Island uses salt water.

Thanks again for reading and for commenting y'all.

June 20, 2012

None

June 20, 2012

Pensions, schmensions! That still does not explain why SD pays more than 30 times more than neighboring counties. I doubt the Water District decided SD pays generous pensions to their police and other public employees, so they increased the charge for water by 30 times. You think if we reduce or even cut pensions, the price of water will drop? I doubt it. I think the solution is to drink less water.....and more tequila! Viva Sandy Eggo!!!

June 15, 2012

i warned u Joe!!!!

hey it's the weekend..i think i'll join ya...aren't u glad Tequila doesn't require a water chaser!!!

Viva Avacados!!!....may they get all the water they need!!!

pass the chips and dip Joe

June 16, 2012

Does anyone know why local growers don't drill water wells to be more independent.

June 9, 2013

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