Once you’ve welcomed avocado toast in your life, it’s hard to imagine going without it. But that’s a sacrifice we might need to make as a nation soon, as interest in avocadoes has tripled in the past three decades and farmers are having trouble keeping pace. National Geographic reports that the creamy green fruit may be headed toward a “quinoa moment,” ie, that global demand has outpaced supply and the farmers producing it Mexico, Chile, and other countries are feeling the pinch.
We do grow avocados domestically, of course — it’s a $435 million industry in California, which accounts for about 95 percent of the avocados grown in the U.S. But the historic drought has taken its toll on that crop like many others from the Golden State. Farmers in the southern part of California, where most of the avocados are grown, are letting their fields go fallow in the light of rising water and fertilizer prices and an influx of cheaper fruit from other countries, according to Take Part.
If the rains don’t come again this fall, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where domestically grown avocados are scarce when they return in the spring. After all, it takes 74 gallons of water to produce a pound of avocados, significantly more than peaches, lettuce, or strawberries.
This all puts our reliance even more on imported avocados, which come with their own complications. There are indications that avocados could follow the same path as The Great Lime Crisis of Spring 2014, when lime imports slowed to a trickle, the prices skyrocketed, and many bars and restaurants were forced to go without — in part because Mexican gangs were demanding a cut of the profits, driving the prices even higher. In Mexico, the $1 billion avocado industry has proven to be too lucrative for drug cartels to resist, and now in some cases they control every part of the avocado operation, from production to distribution.
If the rains don’t come again this fall, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where domestically grown avocados are scarce when they return in the spring.
Even in countries like Chile where cartels aren’t as much of a threat, there are still signs that the current pace may be unsustainable. That country is also facing a drought, and farmers growing what they call oro verde, or green gold, are draining groundwater and planting the crop on hillsides in a way that will not be able to be supported in the future. It’s also taking water away from the people in the country who need it, reports Civil Eats.
All of this could spell disappointment for avocado lovers as well as guacamole-positive companies like Chipotle. The burrito chain uses about 97,000 avocados a day, or about 35 million pounds per year. Earlier in 2014, when it looked as though avocado prices might skyrocket because of the drought, Chipotle announced that it might suspend guacamole service at its restaurants. Those days may still come to pass. All of which has led us to conclude: Maybe have a guacamole-free Super Bowl this year?