This afternoon, the fast casual restaurant chain Dig Inn sent an email to its app users announcing that "no avocados have crossed the Mexico-US border for the past three weeks, and harvests have also been affected."
After recommending a Bloomberg News story about the issue, Dig Inn reassured customers: "Instead of serving a stockpile of frozen avocados and compromising on quality and taste, we’ve temporary taken avocados off our menu. The dispute between growers and packing companies ended yesterday, so we should have fresh, ripe avocados back soon. We’ll alert you when that happens."
You may have noticed that avocados have been getting pretty expensive, sometimes at $4 a piece. Fruit and vegetable trade publication The Packer noticed that, per USDA reports, the "Los Angeles terminal market prices for Mexican avocados on Nov. 12 reached as high as $60 per carton for size 32, while New York terminal market prices reached $65 for size 36 Mexican avocado. The New York price was about $20 per carton higher than a year ago."
Suppliers in the U.S. were reportedly "stretching" available avocados by getting more from Chile. But The Packer's editor in chief warned, "Avocado shortage becomes real when Chipotle says it is." (It's unclear where the Park Slope Food Coop stands.)
Francesco Brachetti, co-founder of Avocaderia, explained to us, "In the last weeks avocado farmers went on strike in the Mexican region of Michoacán to prevent avocados from other regions of Mexico coming in to Michoacán to be later exported to the U.S. under their exclusive export agreement between Mexico and U.S. Prices have considerably increased in the last 2 weeks but today the strike ended and we expect the situation to go back to normal within the next 10 days." (In the meantime, Avocaderia has absorbed the price increase.)
Apparently Michoacán growers blame corruption for allowing "imposter" avocados to be exported to the U.S. Additionally, according to Bloomberg News, "The conflict [had] entered its second week as producers [were seeking] a minimum price range of 17 to 20 pesos (84 to 99 cents) a kilo. APEAM, the association that groups producers and packers, says it’s nearly impossible to set a price range. The average price of avocados in Michoacan is currently 10 to 12 pesos a kilo, which according to the association, leaves a 'good' margin for producers."
Mexican avocado trade group APEAM says it's reached a resolution today with the representatives from both sides as well as the government:
— APEAM, A.C. (@apeamac) November 14, 2018
We've contacted the Hass Avocado Board, which represents domestic avocado producers as well as importers, for comment, but a look at the board's detaiils on avocado shipments does show a large drop. Volume in pounds is typically around or above 40 million pounds, but in the past few weeks, it's dropped to more than 7+ million.
Currently, the U.S. is the biggest consumer of Mexican avocados, taking 77% of the fruit; Canada is second at 7%, followed by Japan at 6%, "other" at 6%, and Europe at 3%. But demand from China's "urban class" is growing quickly. And now it's time to panic about a halloumi shortage.