Published On: Sat, Oct 22nd, 2016

Avocados are stuck in Mexico, but their prices in U.S. are headed north

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In 2014 the U.S. had the Great Lime Shortage. Is 2016 gearing up to be the year of the Great Avocado Shortage?

The causes are similar: A fruit grown in Mexico is not making its way north. While deeply embedded in California’s food identity — and a major crop here — most U.S. avocados are imported from Mexico.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Mexican growers are withholding fruit as they try to negotiate higher payment from packers, and now the wholesale avocado price is two to four times higher than usual. As the primary U.S. supplier this time of year, after California’s season has ended and not much is coming out of Chile or Peru, the growers in Mexico have leverage.

Avocados await shipment in a warehouse. (PHOTO:

Avocados await shipment in a warehouse. (PHOTO:

“Right now, it’s one or two countries supplying the world with avocados,” said Dimitri Vardakastanis, co-owner of three San Francisco grocery stores, including Gus’s Market. Vardakastanis has noticed sharp price increases over the past three months, and is now selling avocados for $1.99 each, $2.99 for organic.

Last year at this time, the United States imported 45 million pounds of avocados weekly from Mexico, but it imported only 13 million pounds last week, according to the Hass Avocado Board. That’s after a somewhat difficult California harvest, which runs spring through summer, with a little bit in fall. The state’s avocado farms struggled with drought-weakened trees that produced less and smaller fruit than usual, said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Co., a grower and importer in Escondido (San Diego County).

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