Peru avocado grower-shippers still finding plenty of labor

Peruvian avocado grower-shippers have plenty of labor available to get their crop picked, packed and sent to ports.

The avocado industry has plenty of support from government officials and a ready pool of workers for orchard, shed and logistics-related positions, marketers say.

“They’re kind of unique in that regard, insofar as the avocado farms in Mexico, California and Chile tend to be a little bit smaller and in Peru a little larger, and it tends to be a shorter season, so there seems to be a fair amount of labor,” said Giovanni Cavaletto, vice president of sourcing with Riverside, Calif.-based Index Fresh Inc.

The brevity of the season is an asset, Cavaletto said.

“They can get the harvest out in the 15- to 20-week window in which they’re harvesting,” he said.

A developing economy continues to provide more options for Peruvian workers, however, there may be trouble in the coming years, said Bruce Dowhan, vice president of the Los Angeles-based Giumarra Cos. and general manager of Escondido, Calif-based Giumarra Agricom International LLC.

“I’m not aware of any major issues Peruvians are having accessing labor. They tend to be commodities that are more physically demanding becoming difficult to find labor.”

Xavier Equihua, CEO and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Peruvian Avocado Association, said the labor pool in Peru is shrinking, as it is elsewhere.

However, it’s not necessarily comparable to situations in other avocado-producing regions in Mexico and California, he said.

Equihua said Peru boasts a “very robust” agricultural sector, which ranks only behind minerals as the largest export sector in the country.

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Robb Bertels, vice president of marketing for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc., described the labor situation in Peru as pretty good, generally.

“This spring, with all the rains, we probably had a little more trouble with that,” he said. “You’ve got the labor pool that’s more concerned with whether they have housing than work.”

 

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