If you’ve noticed a recent shortage in avocados or guacamole, you’re not going crazy; avocados aren’t as readily available in the United States at the moment due to a grower’s strike in Mexico.
Why Did The Strike Happen?
According to NBC News, the 16-day strike was thanks to a disagreement had between avocado growers and packing and distribution companies in Michoacán. The strike began at the end of October and numbers fell significantly. Data from the Hass Avocado Board showed how over 40 million pounds of avocados were coming in from Mexico before the strike began. Once the shortage hit, numbers dropped from just over 13 million pounds the week of November 4 to a mere four million pounds the week of November 11.
On November 8, Bloomberg reported that the argument stemmed from price negotiations. According to The Asociación de Productores y Empacadores Exportadores de Aguacate de México (APEAM), the average price per kilo of avocados was 10 to 12 pesos. Avocado growers were hoping to boost the price to 17 to 20 pesos per kilo.
APEAM announced on November 14 that the growers and packing and distribution companies had reached an agreement. This means that avocados coming into the United States were once again at their peak. Data from the Hass Avocado Board showed numbers climbing back into the 40-million pounds mark as of November 18.
When Will Things Be Back To Normal?
While things are seemingly going well, you may still run into trouble finding avocados in your local supermarket or restaurant. Mark Shaw, vice president of operations for Markon Cooperative, Salinas, CA told Blue Book Services that patrons may see shortages well into December. “We need ripe fruit in foodservice,” he said on November 14. “The strike is settled, so it will start flowing again and moving to ripening centers this weekend [November 16].”
He added that after the strike, consumers should expect to see fresh avocados back on shelves around December 10. “From now to mid-December, consumers will find many restaurants where there won’t be avocados for them,” he told the publication.
Jason Lambros, Coastal Sunbelt Produce’s vice president of food told NBC News similar news. “Volume around the holidays is very difficult as it is. The avocados that have been coming over have literally been hard as rocks. For us to warm them up and ripen them takes time,” he told the publication. Similar to Shaw, Lambros said the situation is expected to be resolved by mid-to-late December.
Businesses In Recovery
Bloomberg also reported that the shortage hurt large chain stores and fast food restaurants like Firehouse Subs and Food Lion, which has locations across 10 states. Firehouse Subs has 1,150 locations across 45 states, as well as locations in Puerto Rico and Canada.
Additionally, on December 11, chef Doug Robson spoke with azcentral about his avocado purchases for his two Phoenix restaurants, Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe. Though the strike is over, he’s still experiencing an adjustment period. Not only were avocado prices on a serious rise (about $100 extra for a case), but they stopped arriving in November.
On November 20, the Otro Cafe posted to Instagram saying “Due to extreme price fluctuations of 300% increase in avocados we will not be serving them in our dishes. Thank you for understanding. It’s not in our control. Cheers.” azcentral reported that Robson was paying about $4,000 more in one month for avocados during the strike.
They also reported that local farmers were hit by the strike. Farmer Bob McClendon didn’t see avocados for that 16-day period, unable to sell them to local businesses and restaurants. “The price did go up, as the supply diminished. It’s a supply and demand thing,” he told them.
Really sorry about that. We're currently seeing a shortage in avocados from our suppliers, but we hope to have supplies back to normal soon. -Jenn— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) November 26, 2018
Even our beloved Chipotle experienced a shortage in their guacamole during the dreaded strike. In a tweet published on November 25, the company responded to one customer’s complaint of having no guacamole. “Really sorry about that. We’re currently seeing a shortage in avocados from our supplies, but we hope to have supplies back to normal soon,” they replied.
So, you may run into some trouble still as restaurants, fast food chains, and supermarkets re-adjust to the recently ended strike. Though sales have reached back into the 40-million pound mark, locations won’t see a proper fresh stock for the next week or so.