Business & Economy

How America is coping with the devastating avocado shortage

NPR — Tastyart Ltd Rob White/Getty Images

Fellow Southern Californians, it's time to mine our grit and faith as we attempt to stay strong in the face of a devastating #avocadoshortage.

The problem began in October, leaving the nation's sandwiches, burgers, guacamole bowls and slices of overpriced, artisanal toast without the creamy green fruit. 

Blame it on El Niño and drought-weakened trees that produced less fruit. Blame it on Mexican avocado farmers who are striking for higher pay as they reduce the flow of avocados into the United States. Blame it on the cruelty of fate.

For the next couple of weeks, many of your favorite restaurants won't be serving avocados. And when you do see avocados in stores, they're likely to cost more. 

Wholesale prices are up to four times higher than normal in some areas, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. One of our KPCC correspondents spotted Hass avocados at the Pasadena Whole Foods selling for nearly $2.99 each. Another KPCC staffer saw avocados selling for $4 each at Ralphs.

The price of avocados at Whole Foods on November 2, 2016 reflects the current avocado shortage.
The price of avocados at Whole Foods on November 2, 2016 reflects the current avocado shortage.
Libby Denkman for KPCC

Ben Faber, a crops advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, explains that, "Mexico is the largest producer of avocados in the world and when they have a dispute, things get messed up." According to Faber, California produces about 350 million pounds of avocados a year while Mexico ships twice or three times that amount into the U.S. annually.

In recent years, the hunger for avocados has only grown, with per capita consumption rising from one pound per person per year to something like five pounds. Combine that with a major drop in avocado imports from Mexico — approximately 80 percent in recent weeks — and you see the problem.

An avocado burger.
An avocado burger.
Photo by Yasunari Sasaki via Flickr / Creative Commons

Several fast food and fast casual restaurants including Red Robin, Hook Burger and Subway — as well as smaller, local restaurants like Lodge Bread in Culver City — have temporarily removed avocados from their menus. But Chipotle has vowed not to raise the price of its guacamole as it tries to win back customers after a food safety scare in 2015.

How is America coping?

With resignation...

anika blase tweet

With pragmatism...

nichole tweet

With a call to action...

jim benning tweet

There is some hope. The avocado shortage is expected to end within a couple of weeks. Stay strong, America. Stay strong.