Holy guacamole, we’re in the midst of a massive avocado shortage. An avocado grower strike in Mexico has led to high prices and low availability, with consumers from California to the oft-ridiculed neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, all feeling the crunch. This week, the Park Slope Food Coop posted a particularly dramatic notice informing members of the avocado shortage. It begins (emphasis theirs): “Very important Avocado News: Please read. WE WILL RUN OUT OF AVOCADOS.” The announcement may seem to cast the situation in a more dire light than is warranted, but the crux of its message is worth paying attention to. Here’s what you need to know.
Mexican avocado growers have been on strike this month, substantially decreasing the number of avocados coming through to the US. The workers are holding back avocados as they ask for higher pay, preventing mass quantities of avocados from making it north. The strike is particularly inconvenient for us because Mexican suppliers are the primary importer of avocados to the US. While the California avocado season peaked in July, we rely on Mexico to keep us stocked throughout the year. Last October, Mexico sent 45 million pounds of avocados to the US. This month, that number has dwindled to 13 million pounds.
While major supermarket chains have contracts that guarantee supply, independent stores and restaurants are having a harder time. The striking workers have adopted seemingly extreme measures to slow the harvest. The Park Slope Coop’s notice stated there was no harvest that day due to a physical disruption that closed roads leading to and from the avocado packing districts in Uruapan, Michoacan. The diminished supply has driven the price of avocados way up. Stores and restaurants that do have avocados have been forced to pay as much as four times more than usual. CNBC reports that a carton of avocados typically costing $40 now will now cost a business closer to $100. Businesses have to pass along that cost to the customer, and some restaurants have even opted to remove avocados from their menus altogether.
To make matters worse, thanks to the never-ending drought, next year's California avocado crop isn’t expected to be much better. Commence caps-lock-level panic now.